Column: Isn’t it time for a talent show?

Mark my words

by Father Mark Goldasich

Have you ever heard of HIM?

Think — with those capital letters — that the HIM might refer to Jesus? Although not a bad guess, the HIM I have in mind is something different.

This HIM is a group of professionals who head out “armed with blow dryers, scissors, nail polish — and love . . . to serve those less fortunate.” HIM is an acronym for Hairdressers in the Marketplace, a ministry of Willow Creek Community Church in suburban Chicago. The volunteers offer a monthly Day of Beauty where “needy women receive free haircuts and manicures.” HIM members “also go to nursing homes for the poor, homeless shelters and facilities for the mentally disabled” to provide free services.

The group was founded in 1998 by Teresa Russo-Cox, a hairstylist. She’d tried a number of volunteer opportunities, but none was a good fit. Finally, she asked God, “Why did you give me a talent that’s so much about vanity? How can I serve you?”

From God’s answer, HIM was born. The ministry not only touches women in need with God’s love and care, but it also impacts the stylists.

“That’s what sets us apart from other ministries that offer haircuts to the poor,” said Russo-Cox. “We focus on evangelism to the beauty industry. . . . Its underlying message is all about external things — glamour and glitz. I want to bring the light of God’s Word into our industry.”

The stylists are often moved by their “clients.” In 2006, for example, teen girls going through rehab for drug and alcohol abuse told HIM members that they’d never had “sober” fun before. Another client, a woman with two preschool children who’d recently left her alcoholic and abusive husband, told a HIM volunteer, “I had no self-esteem. That [Day of Beauty] gave me a boost on the outside, but it helped me on the inside, too. I felt beautiful, special and deserving.” (Story by Keri Wyatt Kent, found in “1001 Illustrations That Connect,” edited by Brian Larson and Phyllis Ten Elshof.)

I regularly meditate on a verse from Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, where he writes that God “equip[s] the holy ones for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (4:12).  Sadly, when people hear “the holy ones,” they usually think, “That’s not me!” And when hearing the word “ministry,” they either think of work done by priests, deacons or religious orders or of service given by those involved in church roles as lectors, eucharistic ministers, ushers and so on.

HIM corrects those mistaken notions. By our baptism, all of us are “holy ones,” members of the family of God. And our ministry is to recognize our particular talents and then use them, both in the church and beyond.

This ministry doesn’t need to be something dramatic. About a month ago, the flapper in the toilet tank at my house was disintegrating. It was a pain to hang around after flushing the toilet to make sure that it shut off. If not, I had to lift the tank’s lid and reposition what was left of the flapper over the drain. I got online and was relieved to see that the repair was something that even an “unhandyman” like me could not mess it up. Naturally, though, I waited for an ideal time to get started, and weeks went by.

Finally, my parish staff called the husband of a parishioner to check things out at my house. He took a quick look at the problem, went to the hardware store and got the flapper installed — all in about 15 minutes. His talent saved me time and worry, and I’m grateful each day to him.

So, what are your talents? The other night, I got to use one of mine after a pastoral council meeting. One member had just gotten an iPhone and wanted to put the next meeting into the calendar, but didn’t know how. He handed the phone to me and I showed him how to access the home screen and enter the meeting date into his calendar. He was grateful, and I felt good about helping.

That’s the wonderful thing about ministry. It’s always a two-way street. Both parties end up receiving something. Although one person is on the receiving end of service, the “giver” always gets something in return: a feeling of joy at helping someone, a hug or word of gratitude from the recipient or just the satisfaction of watching someone’s hope get restored.

Celebrate the Easter season by taking stock of your talents, thanking God for them, and asking the Holy Spirit to guide you to wherever they can be of the most use.

By the way, anyone out there have a talent for organizing? If so, I know a “friend” who could use your expertise!

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