I take chances with my haircuts. There is a Paul Mitchell School in my town where you can get a shampoo, haircut, dry and style for under $20. Occasionally they even run $10 specials!
Some student stylists are slow and timid, new to their craft, while others have logged hours of practice and need little oversight. Once in a while, I end up being coiffed more by the supervisor as they demonstrate layering or other skills on my patient head to the newbie stylist.
Saving money is a good reason to make this trek every 6-8 weeks. Time is a commitment as two hours pass easily with each step evaluated by a seasoned mentor.
My favorite part of the adventure is talking with my student stylist about life, their ambitions, cosmetology training, and always about…faith.
Yep, I do it every time. I love the conversations that follow.
(*stylist names are fictitious)
What is Your Faith Journey?
After casual questions about their months in the salon program and where they grew up, I look for an opportunity to transition. I usually ask, “What is your faith journey?” or “Does any part of your story include faith?”
No one in over three years has acted unsure how to answer that question.
Leaving the definition of faith open to their own perceptions makes for honesty and variety in the responses. Church attendance, youth group involvement, and spirituality in universal terms have been common follow-up comments.
Only two stylists in the pool of 20 I have met said simply, “Nope. I have no faith story.” When I followed up with queries about their preferred creation theory or what happens when people die, one young woman said, “I think there is something or someone out there. But I cannot believe to the point of submitting to a religion.” Another said she was “holding out for reincarnation.”
I keep the tone light and engaging. The hair stations are in a large, open and noisy auditorium. My goal is not to embarrass or pressure my unsuspecting conversation partner. My hair future is literally in their hands! Best to not offend, right?
Life Coach Recognized
Once I was stopped mid question by my stylist, Liz. “What do you do for your work?” she asked, making direct eye contact with me in the mirror.
“Why do you ask?” I replied with a chuckle.
“Because I am supposed to be asking you questions but you are non-stop interviewing me. And the questions you ask are not usual, so what do you do?” Liz persisted.
“You found me out,” I joked. “I am a life coach. Questions are my main tool for helping people gain insight and move forward in their life.”
“Okay, that makes sense,” she said. And returned to blow drying my hair.
In the next bit of quiet, Liz asked more about life coaching and expanded on her earlier answers about faith. “I need to consider what I believe, but it doesn’t seem important right now. I have my plans and am working hard. I think I will figure it out as I go along.”
“What about your destiny? Why did God make you? Does that warrant any reflection?” I countered.
“Well, sure, but for now I am fine. And as far as the afterlife…I hope I come back as a cat.” (Liz was the reincarnation responder, obviously.)
Zoey was the only stylist I had more than one time as my chosen appointments varied and the students’ floor times changed often. As she discovered I was a life coach, she peppered me with questions. She asked my opinion on her boyfriend, her plans to move to Chicago and buy a mobile salon, and the benefits of faith.
“Can I come visit your church?” she inquired one Christmas as I gave her a small tin of homemade goodies.
“Sure,” I said and handed her an invite card our church prepares for holiday services. The appointed Sunday Zoey texted that she was throwing up and couldn’t come. True or not, I never found out.
Two appointments later I was conversing with Alyssa in typical question fashion.
“Wait a minute,” she said, scissors in hand. “Are you the lady who is a life coach? Do you remember Zoey? She talked about you. She thought you gave good advice and helped her with important decisions.” Alyssa caught me up on Zoey’s graduation from the Mitchell school, the boyfriend break-up and her current job in a town nearby, not Chicago.
“Oh, yes, I am a Christian, born and raised in a Southern Baptist pastor’s house,” LaTanya told me on one visit. I took this information in without betraying some surprise. She had already detailed her three children by two different dads and life as a single mom, never married.
“How did your faith play into your decisions about creating a family on your own?” I quietly asked. “What is your relationship like with your parents these days?”
LaTanya shook her head, “Better now. We had some stormy years, for sure. I don’t know why I took the path I did. I believe in God and Jesus and know what is right. I just didn’t stand up for myself in too many situations. I am building a solid life now and I am proud of what I have accomplished.”
“Good for you!” I enthusiastically chimed in. “Mistakes are not the end of the story. What you do with the new wisdom, that is what really counts.”
“My dad is a hard guy for me to talk to. I know he is disappointed in me. But he loves my kids and when I do show up at church, he’s always glad to see me.”
“Well, keep moving forward and share with your 12-year old what you learned. You’ve earned the right to be heard by your kids. Don’t let shame win. What you know will help them to live their lives well.”
With tears in her eyes, she thanked me. I gave her an extra-large tip and hug when I was done. Not the best haircut, but a great encounter of the God kind.
My goal with my stylists or my neighbors or my local business networking group or my coaching clients is not to save them. That is not my job. Only the transforming work by the Holy Spirit can change hearts.
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I desire to be known even for one hour as a person who is interested in faith conversations. Not everyone is comfortable with the topic of our souls, our relationship with God, our eternal destinations. But followers of Jesus should be walking and talking about Him wherever we go.
Life stories are amazing. I never get enough as not one is identical.
Ask questions. Open the airspace for something meaningful and deeply personal even with strangers you meet. People hunger to be known, really known, by their Creator and by others in their world.
Be that kind of Good News ambassador. The satisfying feeling is like…a good haircut!
Gail Goolsby, MA, MEd is a lifelong educator, including past leadership at an international school in Afghanistan. Gail and her pastor husband of 39 years live where the wind blows over the prairie in south Kansas. She counsels and coaches using God’s Word to help others learn to live well.