"Ben brings us so much joy! He greets people with a smile and will often ask them questions about their day or give a compliment. He is the first to notice when someone gets a new haircut or color. He often thanks us for dinner when we are eating! He is kind and compassionate. If he sees someone who looks sad or if someone gets hurt, he will go up to them and ask if they are ok. He often will say a prayer for someone who has an injury. He also loves to be silly and pull pranks on us!" -Sharon, Ben's mom.
I am learning so much by doing the Steller Kindness Project, and one of those things is that I don't know what Steller Kindness Project "is.” With that being said, I’ve realized you don't need to know what you are doing, if you know WHY you are doing it. My goal, intention and overall desire for this project has been to create experiences that show gratitude to individuals who are showing up with kindness, and to share stories that highlight how extraordinary "ordinary" people can be.
Ben is anything but “ordinary”. I cannot wait to see all of the incredible things he will accomplish, and the lives he will change.
This past January I was doing hair for my friend, Meagan. Meagan is a teacher at a local middle school. As we talked about her job, it was apparent that she cared about her students and their families a great amount. She talked about how impressed she was by some of their talents, and one of which was a comment about someone who creates incredible braids. Without going into details about who this student was, I immediately had the idea: Would this student who loves to braid be interested in being a Stylist for a day?
I brought this up to Meagan, and we both got really excited about this possible opportunity. I asked her if she could reach out to her student’s parents and see if this is something they thought their son would enjoy.
I was ecstatic when we got the “green light” from Ben’s mom, Sharon! We set up a time for Ben to spend the day with the Steller team.
Who is Ben?
I asked Sharon to tell me a little bit more about Ben: Where did his interest in hair come from? What are his hobbies?
Ben has been interested in styling hair for as long as she can remember. One of Ben’s friends gave him one of her *many* Barbies, after he enjoyed playing with them at her house. The braids he creates on these little doll heads are incredibly detailed, intricate and WAY better than anything I could accomplish! Ben also loves to create his own unique looks as well! He likes to style hair on his Disney character dolls from some of his favorite movies, as well as Barbies.
He loves to style Rapunzel’s hair from "Tangled" because she has extra long hair. Ben has also learned the valuable lesson that Barbie hair does NOT grow back after you cut it off! Growing up, Ben had a babysitter who would let him style her hair. She even taught him how to french braid, which he has now become a master at! He has recently started googling hair styles and loves to try new techniques.
Ben talks about being a hairstylist, and working at a salon when he’s older. From what I’ve seen any salon would be lucky to have him be a part of their culture!
Beyond hairstyling, Ben enjoys swimming and dancing. He sings in choirs, is learning piano, and enjoys playing percussion in his school band. Some of his favorite movies are Harry Potter and Star Wars, which I can 100% relate to! Ben has also played a multitude of sports, including: basketball, soccer and hockey! He has competed in swimming, track, basketball, golf, bowling and tennis for the Special Olympics. Feeling like a slacker? Me too. This guy is incredible!
For the past several years Ben has been going to a church camp in Lutsen, and has been named the “camp hairstylist”. Ben had expressed interest in becoming a preschool teacher when he grew up, but for the past couple years Ben is passionate about becoming a hairstylist!
Ben // Steller Stylist for the day
May 12th rolled around, and Ben joined our Steller team for the day! When he walked in, he immediately meant business. He put on the apron we had ready for him, and got to work! Ben’s teacher, Meagan, brought in her daughter Zibby to be his first client! She left with a masterpiece of braids and clips throughout her hair. Ben’s second client was one of my employees (Alex) who wasn’t even scheduled to work that day, but wanted to come in and hang out with our newest Steller talent! Braids weren't the only technique Ben brought to the table that day. We pulled out some mannequin heads and got to work on some haircutting, blowdrying, curling and even some crazy hair color sprays! The focus, determination and creativity that Ben used to create his styles was inspiring to all of us, and we've been doing hair for YEARS! Our clients loved interacting with Ben: it was impossible not to be affected by his smile and kindness. We took a couple snack breaks (no one wants a “shaky” stylist!!), and read a few books together.
By the end of the day (he worked a 5 hour shift!), we were all exhausted by the amount of hairstyles that were accomplished! Sharon was attending a Gala that evening, so we ended with some curls for her as well!
Over the past year, I have become increasingly aware of how afraid people can be of someone who is different from themselves, whether that be religion, race, orientation, status, disability, etc. One can be so quick to make assumptions about another person based on how they look, or what their lifestyle is. I asked Ben’s mom if she had any words for people who are looking to become more open and accepting when meeting someone who might be different than themselves, and more specifically, people with disabilities:
“Just by being inclusive and including everyone. Examples: asking someone to sit by them at lunch or on the bus, or play with them at recess, asking to be their partner in a project at school, or inviting them to their house, a birthday party, or movie or just to play. A fun thing for students is to get involved in unified sports with Special Olympics. This is where there are people with and without intellectual disabilities playing on a team together. Many schools offer unified sports and clubs. Another fun thing for adults is to volunteer for Special Olympics!”
Are you interested in learning more about how to support our friends with disabilities? Here are some links!
Resources for people with Down Syndrome:
The Down Syndrome Association of MN // www.dsamn.org.
Gigi's Playhouse in St. Louis Park // www.gigisplayhouse.org.
Resources for people with disabilities:
PACER Center // www.pacer.org.
The Arc // www.thearc.org.
Special Olympics of Minnesota // www.specialolympicsminnesota.org.--
My life is better and brighter from knowing Ben. I am inspired by his courage to constantly be trying new things, his hilarious sense of humor, and his kindness to anyone he comes in contact with. I truly hope Ben becomes a hairstylist, if that is what he chooses to do, and I am grateful that we got to be a very small part of his story!