Saturday, February 11, 2012

Changing Lives One Beauty Shop At A Time

"I feel ....well, useless so much of the time," my friend lamented. "All I do now is clean, cook, and take care of kids. I used to oversee a multi-million dollar budget with pride, knowing those dollars were going to help needy families and now, well, now, a major daily topic for me is my baby's poop."

She laughed in spite of herself. "I know it's just for a season, and I love being a mom. But I got used to feeling that I was making a difference in people's lives. I miss that." Her former job was a fast paced position as CFO of a non-profit devoted to helping the homeless, which she resigned when she had her first child.

Her words still bounced around my mind this morning as I settled into the beauty shop for a long stint beginning with highlights. The shop was especially busy with women polishing themselves for Valentine's Day. Every stylist was at her station, trimming, curling, and flat ironing; the manicurist worked her art on hundreds of nails; and even the receptionist was pulled into duty shampooing hair. Hair spray, steam, and spritzing mists mingled in the air even as all the frenetic sounds blended somehow into a symphonic herald of beauty.

I was well tethered to my chair as my stylist began the tedious process of wrapping my hair in foil and bleaching sections of it. Her rhythmic motions on my head lulled me into the pleasant stillness that finds me when I can sit, watch, and think.

A lone man who came in for a quick cut was obviously out of his element among so many women busy in feminine arts. He sat, red faced, throughout his time in the chair, staring straight ahead, as if looking to the right or left would expose him to Medusa-like consequences. He exited so fast after paying that he almost seemed to be a ghost disappearing through the door. Chatter flowed around me like the Mississippi into the Gulf of Mexico as my hair achieved epic height and perhaps even radio conductivity with all the foil in it.

The front door opened again and a slight woman entered and stood, unsure, in the entrance. Dressed in high waisted jeans and a flannel shirt, she drew her purse in close to her chest. Her hair was short and dishevelled. Her face was wan and pale, sans makeup. "Can I help you?" asked a stylist near the door.

"I, uh, I need...," her voice trailed off as the stylist waited, scissors stilled over the head of her client.

"I was hoping to get a, uh, haircut, well...," she tried again.

"Do you have an appointment?" the stylist asked.

The woman put her head down, then looked up and away. "No, I don't. I, uh, was just driving past, thinking of what I could do to make myself feel better, and, uh...I saw this shop..."

The owner looked over, put down her scissors and walked to the woman. "We are booked right now, but if you want to come back in about an hour, I can cut your hair, " she informed her with a smile.

The woman nodded her head and suddenly put it down again. "I need it done today, so thank you. My birthday is tomorrow. And, uh, my mom is in the hospital, and she's not doing well, and I need to be prepared in case, uh, in case...".

At that, she put down her head again and then looked up, her chin quivering. A lone tear streaked its way down her cheek. "My mom is all I have. I'm single and I don't have children or brothers and sisters. It's just me and my mom, and if she, well, if she...you know, I want..." She pulled her arms around her waist and her small figure seemed to sink in upon itself. She shook her head once as if trying to regain control.

The owner walked right up to her and silently wrapped the woman, a stranger until this moment, in a warm bear hug. The distraught lady dropped her purse, put her arms back around the owner and broke into aching sobs. They hugged as if they were lifetime sisters.

Gradually, all the noise and motion in the shop ceased. One by one, stylists and customers alike left their stations, got up from their chairs and made their way to the woman. I untethered myself as quickly as I could from all my encumbrances and joined them in line to hug this solitary, weeping woman.

She received each of our embraces with more sobs, until finally by the last hug, she had cried herself out and had a new look on her tear stained face.

"I'm so sorry I broke down like that, but you all don't know what a difference you've made in my life with what you've done today, " she declared. "You just don't know!" She wiped her face and smiled a fresh smile.

It doesn't take a high powered job to change a life. I'm sure my new friend from the beauty shop today would agree.

33 comments:

  1. What a wonderful story. It illustrates humanity at its best. Thanks for sharing it.

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    1. Stephen: I was so happy the owner of the shop did what she did to break the ice. All it takes is one~

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  2. We all need those hugs, Shelly. It takes very little time, very little effort and not a single dime to change a life. You can do it in an instant by reaching out to someone in need with genuine compassion and the realization that "There but for the grace of God, go I." Sadly, women are much more likely than men to engage in this type of demonstrative gesture. Women have a sisterhood, a network, a strong support system, the kind that few men ever experience. In a blogging community where women seem to outnumber men by a wide margin I very much appreciate those who have accepted and welcomed me just as they would a female friend rather than regarding me as an outsider from the enemy camp. It feels good to turn someone's frown upside down. I'm sure the woman that you and the others helped will pay it forward and make a difference in somebody else's life.

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    1. Shady: I have noticed recently how overwhelmingly female the blogging world is. I am so glad we have some brave, good hearted men like you and our other friends who come in and deal with all of us women. I agree that I wish men had more of the support system women have crafted for each other.

      I think every bit of kindness bears fruit somewhere down the line, so I have great hopes at what it will bear in her!

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  3. What a great story sometimes reaching out and giving a person a hug makes such a big difference in someones life...........

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    1. Jo-Anne: You're right- a simple hig works wonders!

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    1. Sweet Tea: It had His fingerprints all over it.

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  5. A wonderful moment and I'm so glad you were there to share in it. I've noticed myself how much a human touch can help when you feel down. I was a stay-at-home mother until my girls got married. I believe it was the most important job in the world that I could do. A mother is shaping a human being. What a responsibility!

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    1. Belle: I completely agree. There are no more important people in the life of a child than the mom and dad. And as parents, it's the biggest responsibility we have.

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  6. Unexpected love, unexpected relief, the random act of kindness from a complete stranger; these are moments that light up our existence. How amazing that you got to be a part of that hugging line. This is the purpose, the meaning of life! To love one another as He has loved us. Thank you for reminding me through such a touching and beautiful story.

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    1. Jenny: I was so thankful to have witnessed it. The shop owner could have just continued talking to the lady while she worked, but I love how she made that woman feel important, even on a busy day, by putting down her scissors and walking over to her. You are so right- that's why we're put here on this earth- to love.

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  7. As with most of your stories, this one touched me deeply. Thank you Shelly.

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    1. Odie: It's amazing how just one little thing can so transform things. I am so glad I was there to see it.

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  8. Powerful truths, we can always always be an encourager, soul lifter if we will be attentive to someone's elses needs over our own screaming needs! :) Much inspired by your post today...Happy Sonday!

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    1. Rhonda: That's the key, and that's what the shop owner did. Putting others before ourselves, even when they're a stranger, is one of the most fulfilling things there is.

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  9. It must have been a beautiful moment to see and also an overwhelming for the sad lady. Times like these give me hopes that we are a good species - - - I mean humans. Thanks for sharing:)

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    1. Munir: I really believe there's more good out there than bad, but the bad gets highlighted much more than the good. Thank you for stopping by today!

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  10. Strangers passing along the love of God to one in need. A lovely story, beauty operators making people look good, customers seeking beauty, yet all showing true beauty by caring for one forlorn and dispirited.

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  11. vanilla: Bingo- you got it dead on!

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  12. Wow, this needed a tear warning! What a beautiful story of women lifting each other up. I'll pray for her.

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    1. Jamie Jo: Thank you for your prayers for her. Her name is Michelle and I know she'd appreciate it. Bless her heart- what a tough spot.

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  13. That brought tears to my eyes. It was a beautiful moment of selflessness from all of you there at the time. If only we could always be prepared to put ourselves out, and not worry about what anyone else will think of us. I've learned that acts of kindness and words of encouragement are usually met with gratitude and love. I hope your new friend gets through her ordeal - and I have a feeling she will. This happened to my aunt this past year after losing my grandmother - her mother. She was her caretaker and was quite lost without her. But slowly, through the love of family and the wonderful kind acts and words of the new friends where she now lives, she is recovering from her grief. It's a miracle to watch, so I know you can do this woman great good in helping her heart heal.

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  14. Karen: That's all it takes- just a little detour out of our regular plans to really impact someone else. It costs so little when you really think about it.

    Your poor aunt- I'm glad that with the help and love of family and friends she was able to pull out of it. I hope the same for this lady from the beauty shop.

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  15. more proof there are way more good people on this earth than the media would ever let us know about!!

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    1. So beautiful :).

      Your blog posts are always beautiful .

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    2. izdiher: Thank you- you are always so kind!

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  16. Oh Shelly...tears streaming down my face. the bond between Mother and Daughter is so strong and beautiful. When it is threatened it can be almost more than a heart can bear. I'm so proud of women like you and the other women in the hair salon. It's wonderful when we can empathize and give comfort to a 'sister' in need. No strangers in that room...just loving women. How wonderful you could help give her soul some comfort and ease.

    Loves~

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    1. Sush: She looked so very alone that my heart just broke. We all had tears. I know if you had been there you would have given her one of your trademark hugs, too. Sometimes just that makes all the difference in the world.

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  17. Dear Shelly, you've done it again . I'm mow sat here with tears streaming down my face! What a wonderful story my friend , and how beautiful that you all gave comfort to that poor lady. So sad, and I do pray that her mum will get well. I still miss my own mum so much, but at least I had my hubby and two daughters to comfort me when she passed away. Take care.

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  18. Thisisme: Bless her heart. She was so broken and alone. I'm so thankkful she came into that shop. Thank you, my friend!

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