Archive for Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The ripple effect of kindness

July 25, 2012

I sat in the shop, waiting for an appointment, and watched a hair stylist working with a woman. The hair stylist was in her late 30s or early 40s, and her customer was, I thought, in her late 80s. I later learned the customer was actually in her 90s.

The hair stylist moved slowly and with ease. She towel-dried the small, white head; combed and clipped; then began using a hand-held blow dryer. From time to time, she stopped, stepped back and looked; then she picked up her scissors and clipped a little here and a little there.

As she walked around the chair, she gently touched the older woman on the shoulder; stopped and looked over her shoulder into the mirror, and spoke to the woman. They both nodded and smiled. The finished product seemed to please them both.

The customer started to get up from the chair, but before she rose, the hair stylist held her gently by the shoulder and raised a palm hand as if to say wait. The older woman waited while the hair stylist picked up a broom and swept hair clippings away from the chair. Then she took the woman’s cane from where it was propped in a corner and handed it to her.

Then she lowered the chair, put an arm under the older woman’s elbow and carefully helped her from the chair. Her customer was no bigger than a minute; snowy hair, small-boned and fragile-looking. The elderly woman walked with a bit of tilt and moved slowly across the floor. As she moved, I noticed the hair stylist gently let go of her — like she was guiding her into a warm jet stream that would carry her away.

When she reached where I was sitting, I stood up and asked if I could help her out the door. She agreed, and I took her by the arm and opened the door. I asked if she had someone to drive her. She replied with blue eyes that glistened: “Oh, I still drive myself.” I wondered if she was going to see over the steering wheel.

Her hair stylist joined me at the door as we watched the elderly woman tip tap her way to her car. I commented to the hair stylist about her kindness to her customer. She told me a bit about her: whose wife she had been, now a widow; who her sons were; and how often she came to have her hair done — same time every week.

We watched her drive out of the parking lot. The hair stylist turned to me and said: “I am watching myself; that will be me one day. I hope someone treats me with kindness.” Into the waters of life, a pebble is dropped; in this case reverberating rings of gentle kindness and respect; one day, touching the shore on which she now stands.

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