On the Spot by Ken Herar
I recently bumped into Thomas Hodgson, the guy with the bushiest beard probably in the Fraser Valley. He certainly wasn’t hard to miss by any stretch of the imagination as I sat in a restaurant. I shared with him that his hairy reddish beard was very impressive and he shared that it goes past his waist. I have seen my fellow Sikh brothers with beards like these, but not a Caucasian person, except for Santa, of course. I was told once that people with beards hold much wisdom.
Hodgson, who has been growing his beard for two years, says he gets a lot of strange responses from people. Women have asked him to shave it off and his response to them is to stop wearing makeup.
He explains that small children are always pleasant with him and usually hold no judgments or biases. Adults and teenagers are the worst, he explains.
“Rarely do I get a positive reaction from an adult or teens. Women in their 20s are scared and intimidated and same goes for men. Older women and men are very judgmental and stare for a long time, and make really puzzled looks and that’s the same for people who have grown up here.”
Hodgson says he feels alienated through all of this, especially when looking for employment, where many employers have asked him to shave it off.
He lost his job a year ago, and has a hard time finding a job, because many have judged him because of this very reason, but he refuses to shave it off. He says people are far more judgmental in the Fraser Valley than in the metro surroundings.
On the bright side, there are people who find it fascinating. They are usually the ones who cannot grow beards, while some just find it intriguing. It’s all not negative, according to Hodgson, but he still loves the person who he is and the beard, which makes him who he is.
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The Fraser Valley Cultural Diversity Awards are approaching quickly with the deadline around the corner on Jan. 12 and the awards ceremony on March 4 at the Ramada Plaza and Conference Centre in Abbotsford. Having been a past recipient of the Champion of Diversity in 2007, I was honoured to receive this recognition.
With this award comes a responsibility to continue to serve. There are five award categories and never a shortage of outstanding nominees that showcase our community’s commitment to cultural diversity.
The event is always sold out with fine representatives from our community. The time has come that award organizers and judges should consider expanding and awarding two awards for each category. In doing this, we touch more people and create more mentors.
One thing I hear often from volunteers is they never get recognized for their work, and this would be a small way to change this perception. Having a few extra recipients will not only encourage organizations to continue to do their work, but also bring new nominees into the fold.