Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Yours, Mine, and Uncle Jed's Journey

My older son and I recently read Uncle Jed's Barbershop. I had gotten it at a garage sale this summer for 50 cents, twice my usual kid's book cutoff of a quarter, because it looked like an interesting story. And it was definitely worth that extra twenty five cents, especially during this "year of goals".

The story appears to have been written by Uncle Jed's niece. It starts in the 1920's and Uncle Jed has a dream to own a barber shop. But "nobody believed him. We lived in the south and were poor. Most people were sharecroppers, and people didn't have dreams like that."

But Uncle Jed continues traveling around the county to give haircuts, often taking eggs or vegetables or a promise to pay later from people who were short on cash and he saved every penny he could. Then his niece, the author, was sick and couldn't get an operation until $300 was paid up front and "my Daddy didn't have that kind of money." Uncle Jed said nothing was going to happen to his Sarah Jean and paid the money.

This was a financial setback, but many years later, he finally had three thousand dollars in the bank. Then came the Great Depression and a neighbor knocked on the door to tell Uncle Jed the bank was broke and his money was gone.

"Uncle Jed just stood there a long time before he said anything. Then he told Mr. Walters that even though he was disappointed, he would just have to start all over again."

He eventually opened his own barbershop on his seventy-ninth birthday.

"It had everything, just like he said it would - big comfortable chairs, four cutting stations, the floors so clean, they sparkled. On opening day, people came from all over the country. They were Ol' Uncle Jed's customers. He had walked to see them for so many years. That day they all came to see him.

I believe he cut hair all night and all the next day and the next night and the day after that! That man was so glad to have that shop, he didn't need any sleep.

Uncle Jed died not long after that, and I think he died a happy man. You see, he had made his dream come true even when nobody else believed in him.

He taught me to dream, too."

Reading the story made me think of my own journey this year, and the importance of savoring it and of disregarding those voices in my head that sometimes say discouraging things or the sense of urgency to "get it done" or "when I achieve this milestone, THEN I'm going to really feel I've accomplished something." Most of Uncle Jed's life was the journey, not the finishing up.

When Greg and I were on vacation awhile back, we had a lovely time, but were stranded overnight at an airport. My dear hubby is NOT a good one for waiting and his anxiety to get back was palpable. I bought a magnet at the airport giftstore that is now on the fridge to remember that the downtime in the airport wasn't "bad time" to be gotten through so the "good time" could begin. It reads:

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. Souza
For a long time it seemed to me that life was about to begin-real life. But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, a debt to be paid. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles WERE my life. This perspective has helped me see there is no way to happiness. Happiness is the way. So treasure every moment you have and remember that time waits for no one.

I'm working to get there - to treasure each moment. Wishing you a happy journey - not just a happy destination. Eileen


  1. My public library has this and I am going to pick up a copy. I like the excerpts that you published here. I can't believe what he went through to save the money and achieve his dream. It does give me the push to do the same. Sometimes saving for a dream (or for needs) is very difficult.

  2. Jill,

    Hope you enjoy it. It really is inspiring to think he managed his dream when he was sometimes paid with eggs and vegetables! And if you get a chance, look into another book that I am just starting on the suggestion of an English woman. The title is "How I lived a year on just a pound a day" by Kath Kelly. The author only excluded her rent from that pound a day cut-off. She was saving for a special thing, a gift for her brother's wedding. I'm only on the first chapter, but it is inspiring how much she finds she doesn't need and how she is in fact able to save quite a bit. Good wishes to you. Eileen

  3. I wish my son was still a little boy, so I could read this book to him. It's a beautiful story. Thanks for mentioning it.

    I'm working on living in the present moment too, dwelling neither on the past nor anticipating the future. This is a challenge for me.

  4. Nay, Isn't it great when you do, even for a few minutes a day, really live in that moment, even driving down the road? I'm always at peace in those moments. Wishing us both, and every other person on the planet many, many, moments in the moment. Eileen