Years ago, in one of my former lives, I was a hairdresser and had a shop in my home. It was a great job to work around my small children’s schedules and be available for them after school. It is not so easy to have a business in your home, however. In fact, it is very intrusive.
I was concerned that not many people would be interested in coming to a beauty shop in my basement. In the beginning, it was not a walkout basement. My clients had to walk through my home to come to the basement.
I was very blessed to have been in a church with the school my children attended and the majority of the staff for the school and church were my clients.
One day I got a call from a woman, whom I had known in several capacities, to cut her hair. I was a little surprised to hear from her because I had been in business for about 8 years by then and this was her first time to call me. She had really long hair so I assumed she just didn’t go to the beauty shop often. I made an appointment for her with little conversation.
The first time I saw Sharon was in the backyard of my in-laws home with a shotgun in her hand. Her husband wasn’t far behind her also with a shotgun. I was quite alarmed and called my father-in-law to the window I was looking out and asked if he knew them. He grunted a barely audible “yes” and went out to the backyard to inquire as to why these people were in his yard with shotguns. Everyone along that road had at least 3 acres, and everyone knew one other.
My father-in-law came back into the house and said they were looking for their dog they believed to have been bitten by a rabid raccoon, and they wanted to put him down. The couple came into the house, and no one ever came into my mother-in- law’s home without eating homemade cinnamon bread and drinking a cup of coffee, so they stayed for a while. My father-in- law referred to them as the neighborhood hippies.
The next time I saw Sharon was in a women’s Bible study I was leading. Since it was the first class of the season and after school summer break, I thought everyone should introduce herself and comment about why she was there. When it was Sharon’s turn, she waved me off, and I did not want to put her on the spot so I nodded to the next lady. Sharon then interrupted and said that the reason she was there was because her daughter was in the first grade and had been asked to a birthday party from people she did not know. She stated that she didn’t especially like people, mostly women, but felt like she needed to learn how to be more social for her daughter’s sake. She thought a women’s Bible study might be a good start. You could hear a pin drop!
I saw Sharon around church and the school, and periodically around my in-laws neighborhood but did not have much social contact with her after that class was over. I did notice that she was volunteering more and became more visible over the next five years.
Five years later, the appointment for a haircut came. Her husband drove her and came in with her, but she told him to go sit around the corner while she got her hair cut. He did as told. She instructed me to braid her waist-length hair and cut next to the scalp. I did as requested. She purposefully then turned the chair around to face me and away from the mirror and took the braid from my hand. She then handed me the clippers sitting on the roll- about next to her and said she wanted me to shave her head. I was motionless and speechless, which almost never happens.
When I could regain my composure, I finally asked why she wanted a shaved head. She explained to me that she was just diagnosed with breast cancer and did not want to watch her hair fall out in clumps. I had no idea of this diagnosis. My mind raced with so many questions, but I was not sure what would be acceptable based on our limited relationship.
We spent several minutes in silence, and as I wiped back tears, I slowly and gently placed the clippers on her scalp and drew back one row at a time leaving little black pin dots on her scalp where long, thick, healthy, coal black hair once was.
So many things raced through my mind. The last few years had been spent in many classes at the church and parenting classes so she could make good on her promise to her daughter to become more social.
She turned to look at me and must have sensed the many questions and gave me permission to ask what I wanted. As I sorted through the many, the main question I wanted to ask her was about how her faith was holding up during this rough storm. She said words to me 25 years ago that I will never forget. She said, “I believe that I am merely a lump of coal, and this is just one more way God can use to polish me up into a shiny, beautiful diamond!”
Sharon honored her daughter by being a great example of what God can do with a dirty, dusty, black lump of coal. For the next three years, you could see the shining, clear glow of a diamond in the rough.
By Pat Schwieder