Thursday, August 8, 2013


I recently met a woman who left a remarkable imprint on my mind and heart.  Zarrah was my hair stylist at a randomly-chosen salon in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, D.C.  If I could sum up Zarrah in one word, that word would be mild.  She epitomizes womanhood in many ways – humble, gentle, constantly serving, and serving happily.

This might not be information that carries any weight until I tell you that Zarrah spent her childhood in Afghanistan.  I tried not to pry into her personal background, but anyone who has paid any kind of attention to the news in the last 40 years knows what conditions are like for girls and women in Afghanistan.  Yet I could not sense one drop of bitterness in Zarrah.  She busied herself in the salon in a happy, calm manner, and demonstrated a kindness and gentleness that I marveled in watching.

  During the two quick hours that we spent together, I watched her.  These are some of the things I witnessed:

1. She supported her fellow workers in their efforts, thanking them for small kindnesses they did for her (like sweeping up the cuttings of my hair) and quickly moving to help a colleague fold freshly-dried towels.

2. She held my hair in her hand like it was valuable, and used the lightest touch I have ever experienced in preparing my hair for a color and cut. (And I thank those of you who actually thought my color was not straight out of a bottle.)

3. She took care of other customers while the color set on my hair, making the most of her time (and that of her other customers).

4. She not only shampooed and conditioned my hair, she took the time to give me the most relaxing scalp massage I have ever had. When I joked that she was going to put me to sleep, she joined right in and promised to wake me before she went home that evening – haha.

5. Because of her gentle ways, people treated her kindly. She responded to every kindness with a melodic “awww” or a word of thanks, and a genuine, warm smile.

There were other demonstrations, but you get the idea. Zarrah, a woman who has seen great hardship, has chosen to live with joy, kindness and service. And because of her choices, I was drawn to love her in a very short time.  (We even hugged each other when I left.)  I don’t know if I will ever learn to be as meek and accepting as she was that day, but I can certainly learn to be mild, by remembering her example. When I grow up, I want to be like Zarrah.

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