Where there is darkness, there must also be light. And if we can’t find light, then we can create it ourselves. This idea—the concept of goodness just because—recently motivated Patrick Kim, an Orange County hairstylist and waxing expert, to spend several hours on a Monday morning trimming hair for the homeless.
“I think I’ve always wanted to give back to the community,” Kim said. “I’ve just always wanted to make a difference.”
Inspired by videos he saw on Facebook, Kim researched local churches to see if any were providing free haircuts to those without a home. His exploration landed on the Lighthouse C.M. Church of the Nazarene in Costa Mesa, CA, and after speaking with Outreach Director Linda Miles, learned she was in need of someone to help.
“I told her I would love to be a part of it,” Kim explained. “I just set a date and was like, ‘OK I’ll be there Monday.’” With his co-worker Grace Kim Lee in tow, he trekked to the church in late September, scissors and supplies in hand.
What happened next Kim won’t soon forget.
“I met one man from Pennsylvania, the director of a top hospital there for more than nine years, who got a heroin addiction and came to California for rehab,” Kim recalls. “In rehab he found out he had a cyst in his brain and his insurance lapsed after the surgery so he wound up homeless.”
During the haircut, the man told Kim about several job interviews he’s trying to line up and how he’d like to get back into the workforce soon. The man was quiet, docile and completely genuine, and Kim described the entire experience as “humbling.”
“Everyone just loved the haircuts,” Kim said. “There wasn’t a single person who didn’t thank me four or five times before we were done and I kept telling them they didn’t need to thank me but they did it anyway. They were so grateful.”
Another haircut recipient, an older man with bedraggled, white locks in desperate need of a trim, told Kim that whenever he can, he tutors Vietnamese children in Garden Grove, CA, free of charge. The students didn’t speak much English and the man spoke fluent Vietnamese, a win-win. “I thought it was awesome to hear about someone who was clearly not in the best situation himself still volunteering and giving back whatever he could to others,” Kim explained.
A third standout during the morning was a woman, almost 60 years old. She sat down in Kim’s chair and said she’d never tried an adventurous haircut before but had for years been contemplating a Mohawk. Her hair was green, her attitude ebullient.
“She said she wasn’t sure what people would think about her if she had a Mohawk and I said not to care what other people thought,” Kim explained. “If a Mohawk makes her happy, she should go for it.”
With trust fully placed in her newfound stylist, the woman received the Mohawk she’d always wanted and after admiring the new ‘do, dug into her pockets, searching for spare change. She extended her palm, filled with coins and a few dollars. “I was like, ‘No, no, no,’” he said. “I told her the haircut is totally free and whenever you need another one, come back on a Monday.’”
In addition to the Lighthouse Church, Kim is also offering his services at WISEplace, a homeless shelter for women in Santa Ana, CA. “I’m going to cut hair at WISEplace but I’ll also be giving the women some styling tips,” Kim explained, adding that if anyone in the Orange County area (or beyond) is interested in sending donations—shampoo, conditioner, blow dryers—he’s accepting any and all supplies, and can be reached on Instagram and via email.
As for the immediate future, Kim will spend alternating Mondays at Lighthouse Church and WISEplace. When asked about his now-busy Monday mornings, Kim laughed, a sound bright and full of promise. “I don’t know what I’ve gotten myself into,” he said. “But we’ll see how this works.”