Life lesson in an unlikely place.

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Looming on my to-do list today was “get a haircut.” I r-e-a-l-l-y don’t like getting my hair cut, but my thick, wavy mane was starting to resemble a fat tumbleweed. No choice. Haircut on my day off.

Hair is so low on my list of priorities that I quit going to an expensive salon years ago (finances had a part in that decision, too). Now I just make a quick dash to the nearest Great Clips every three month or so and hope for the best. It’s kind of like the WalMart of hair care. Cheap, and you kind of get what you pay for. Generally a decent cut, but generally given by surly employees with “interesting” life stories.

Today I got to the Great Clips door about three minutes before they opened (one of my tricks – get in line first so you don’t have to wait and you can get the hell out of there, go home, and recuperate). There were stylists inside getting ready, so I stood outside and glanced at Facebook on my phone. At 9:00 on the dot, one of the women unlocked the door but didn’t open it and greet me, turned on her heel, and walked away.

“Okay,” I thought. “Kind of a crappy business model.”

And I stopped myself right there. It hit me that I had two choices. I could be rude and unpleasant right back. Or I could make the assumption that this was someone with a lot on her mind, have some empathy, and see what happened.

The ugliness of the national discourse over the last few years, and especially in 2016, has been weighing on me. It helped me make up my mind. I was going with empathy.

This same woman directed me to a chair, asked what I was wanting today, and got started without a word. “Go for it,” I told myself. So I took a leap and related a funny story about my husband’s last experience with a hair cut.

Nothing. Silence.

But then…a couple of minutes later. She asked me if I have a job. I told her yes, but I work for a church so I have Fridays off and work on Sundays. I mentioned that it’s really nice to have a weekday off every week.

What happened for the next fifteen minutes was kind of beautiful. I learned that yesterday had been her birthday. That she’d spent the day with her grandchildren. That the month of August is hard for her because her husband killed himself on August 16 two years ago, and her son-in-law also died in August several years ago. We talked about the aftermath of suicide, about what survivors go through, how hard it is to live with a depressed person (I have 25 years of up-close-and personal experience there) and that she’s struggled with depression in herself since her husband died.

A moment. Real life. Two people with seemingly very little in common, connecting in a meaningful way.

I could have (and certainly have, in the past) gone the other way. I could so easily have made a pissy comment, sat there in silence, and fumed over her rude greeting. In truth, one of these days that’s probably what I’ll do. I know that on a bad day I can be just as unpleasant as the next guy.

But the world has enough of that kind of thing going on right now, don’t you think?

I’ll try to remember that.

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