Today I Ate Hair

Subconsciously seeking a distraction, I mindlessly flipped through the photos on my Instagram feed. I had been mulling over the day and especially a curious happening at an outdoor mall. Wayne and I had gone out to do a little Christmas shopping and walked in separate directions, agreeing to meet again later.

The day was sharply chilly yet bright and sunny. I finished my shopping a bit early and decided to soak in some sunshine on an outdoor bench while I waited. Unexpectedly, a young woman in her early 20’s approached me. She was well dressed, tall, and beautiful. Although attractive, I felt a kind of dark fear wash over me for a split second, yet resisted the urge to walk away from her. I definitely changed my mind about her when she greeted me graciously and sweetly.

“Excuse me ma’am, perhaps you can help me.”

My immediate thought was an inner question: why did I feel a tinge of fear when the young woman approached me so graciously?

She had a very thick accent, yet her vocabulary was quite advanced. I could tell that English was a second or third language for her, and she had mastered it. This is actually something I greatly admire. Until you have lived in another country not of your birth, tried to learn a new language, and adapt to social and cultural situations, nobody knows how challenging this is.

My husband and I have traveled extensively internationally and lived abroad in several countries for nine years. We have studied several languages and tried to build friendships with new language skills. Because of this, we have grown empathetic to non-citizens of the USA. Their struggle for adaption is real.

For that reason, I patiently listened to this young woman and grew eager to help her. She continued,

“I’m looking for a specific item and don’t know the name of it or the store in which to purchase it.”

Her voice grew sweeter and sweeter as she tried to explain what she wanted. I offered a suggestion and then suddenly her countenance changed. Unexpectedly, she spewed out a few cutting words about my personal appearance. Her tongue became an unseen knife that sliced into my heart.

My spirit fell to the ground, although my bones and body continued to stand erect. Even though I was stunned and speechless, I didn’t allow myself to show a response.

Her eyes narrowed with dark intent as she paused a few seconds, hoping that I would show signs of having been wounded. I remained still with a deadpan expression. Then she turned on her heels and hurried away.

Immediately, I found Wayne and explained what happened. We walked around the mall looking for her. I don’t know what I would have said or done, but I think my heart wanted to resolve the pain on some level. I wanted justice—to even the score—yet on another level, I yearned to reach into her heart to understand the pain that caused her to hurt me.

I am a 72-year-old, silver-haired grandmother. I was sitting on a park bench minding my own business when a beautiful young lady, with a whole life of youthful hope stretching before her, stopped by without provocation to stick an arrow in my heart, and then flee. I am still trying to figure it out. It was just so needlessly mean.

My retrospective reflection amazed me—this young lady approached me as a tall, beautiful, and seemingly gracious person; but in my spirit, I saw her limp away as a crippled, broken, hunched-over insect. It is amazing what the heart can see when we allow ourselves to really see. This is a reflection of her emotional condition and who she really is as a person.

It took me a day or two to process. In the end, I have concluded that it wasn’t what she said, but it was that she approached me deceptively with sweet demeanor yet hurtful intentions. I really didn’t settle the whole matter until I came across this poignant short poem by Lori Heteen that read my mail and soothed my pain.

Most of us have had the unpleasant experience of pulling a stranger’s hair out of a salad or plate of spaghetti at a restaurant. The only response is to put your fork down and ask for a new dish of food. Nobody wants to eat hair and nobody wants to eat a stranger’s hair. But it happens. This is the world.

Miriam-Webster describes a stranger as one you with whom you are personally unacquainted. Scripture is clear on the treatment of strangers that live among us and has nothing to do with language or race. They are just those in our pathway daily, with whom we have no relationship. Despite our differences, they are worthy of our kindness, generosity of spirit, and even our hospitality.

“You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23:9).

“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by this some have entertained angels without knowing it” (Hebrews 13:2).

Sometimes our best efforts bring a mouthful of hair unexpectedly. Spit it out. Put your fork down. Make a new salad. Life is like this.

These words give light and comfort.

“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

As an important post script here, I came across Lori Heteen’s Instagram account, and I have found her poetry and words, soothing, healing, convicting, and encouraging. I encourage you to find her account and follow along daily with her take on the world through the stunning artistry of wordsmithing.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Mimi Ribble says:

    Bonnie, you are an angel. I’m afraid I’d be tempted to run after her & push her into a wall with a big smile on my face. 😄

    1. Bonnie says:

      😂😂😂

  2. Wanda June Tigert says:

    This made me stop and think. Thank you so much for touching my heart and mind.

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