A small act of kindness … and a new look

So … the other day, a friend of mine sent an update on her battle with cancer.

Baldy

My new look …

My friend, Joell, begins chemo next week, and has been told that she will lose her hair as a result of the chemo drugs.

During my prayer time Friday (while I was working out), I realized God was telling me that the most pastoral thing I could do for my friend, whom I met on my very first day in seminary, was to shave my head bald in solidarity with her. Which means that I will be bald for the next several weeks and months. However long Joell goes without hair, I go without hair.

I am not ill. I am simply trying to boost the spirit of a friend who is young (OK, she’s only seven years younger than me, but I still think of her as a 20-something…), vivacious and a tremendous gift to the Episcopal Church and to all of God’s beloved children. Joell is the one who taught me how to preach a children’s sermon. She taught me how to “throw” incense. We had classes together, stressed through our ordination examinations together, commiserated over job woes, celebrated ministry highs, and share stoles I had made from African cloth.

Now she is ill. And I cannot be there for her. She lives 1,500 miles – half a country away – from me. I can’t be there to hold her when she’s ill, or when she needs someone to make a run for some odd food urge, or just to give her a hug. She has lots of other people to do all that for her, but won’t be there.

As I prayed for Joell yesterday, I knew … I simply knew … that I was supposed to shave my hair off. And to keep my head shaved, every single day, until her hair comes back. No matter how I tried to get around this idea, it kept coming back. As I walked on my treadmill. As I swung my kettle bells. As I did my planks and sit-ups and leg lifts. No matter what I was doing, God’s little voice was right there: Do this. Today.

Before the cut

The “old” look …

So I texted my hair stylist (and trust me, she is a stylist; keeping my hair short as I have for the last 11.5 years means Sherri has to work hard to keep it looking good!), and asked for an emergency appointment. She finally found a spot for me, a free 5 minutes later in the day.

When I walked in, she was ready … and not ready. Sherri has done this for other people who want to support their friends with cancer. But every time, she gets nervous. “Are you sure?” “Yes, I am. Go for it.”

10 minutes later, I was bald, or nearly so. Sherri took my hair down as far as possible with her clippers. I still had to shave.

But … it was done.

I took a slew of photos, posted them on Facebook, and texted Joell to make sure she saw it. I told her:

Joell, this is for you.

As long as you’re bald, I’m bald.

Because bald is beautiful.

Bald is brave.

So get your beautiful brave on and kick cancer’s butt!

#GetYourBeautifulBraveOn

And then … well, then, it got kind of crazy. Before I could even check to make sure the photos had posted correctly, there were five likes. And then comments. And then more likes. And more comments. Within four hours, there were 160 likes. Within 24 hours, there were 260 likes. And a slew more comments, all in support.

I’m not the first person to shave my head in support of a friend with cancer. And I won’t be the last. But in these days of such incredible nastiness and division, of snark and cynicism, I believe that a small act of kindness – and remember, it’s just hair and it will grow back! – touches people’s hearts. To appropriate (I hope faithfully) John Wesley’s quote, people felt their hearts strangely warmed.

That’s how I know that this head-shaving adventure is really of God.

Then again, aren’t all acts of kindness, large and small?

I do ask you to pray for my friend Joell. Hold her and anyone who has cancer, or any serious, life-changing, gut-wrenching illness, in prayer. Then take a moment to do something – large or small – for one of those folks, or for all of them. Remember that our lives are intertwined … and that every act of kindness counts.

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About Lauren Stanley

All my life, it seems, I’ve been on mission. And it’s all my mother’s fault. You see, when I was a child, my mother was adamant: We were to help those in need, those who had less than we did. We were to speak for those who could not speak, feed those who had no food, give water to those who were thirsty.

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