My seven-year-old daughter, Kayla, sat in a salon chair with her eyes squeezed shut as a scissor-wielding stylist snipped an 11-inch braid from the back of her head. When she opened her eyes and looked at the braid the stylist had placed in her hand, she shook her head and gave a shy smile. As a mother, it was one of the proudest moments I can remember.
We hadn’t cut Kayla’s hair since she was three, after a particularly traumatic salon experience. Long, wavy hair comes with its own challenges, and last summer, Kayla had begun to talk about cutting her hair shorter — she was tired of fighting the knots in the morning. Then, she saw that her friend Ricki Schlussel had donated her hair to Zichron Menachem, an Israeli association that supports children with cancer and their families. Her hair would be made into wigs for those children. Laurie, Ricki’s mother, told us about Zichron Menachem, and Kayla said she wanted to donate her hair, too.
Kayla’s hair wasn’t long enough — it needed to be at least 10 inches — so we decided to wait until after the summer. Somehow summer became October, and we still hadn’t done it. Then HBO ran a documentary, The Kindest Cut, about Locks of Love, an organization that provides hairpieces to children suffering from medical hair loss. It was heartbreaking and inspiring. There are few sights more shocking than a child with a bald head, or more uplifting than seeing a child transformed by the kindness of strangers.
Kayla wanted to go to the salon the very next day. “It’s really sad, isn’t it, that the sick children have to get shots all the time and go to the hospital?” she said. “I really, really want to donate my hair to them.”
We went to the salon two days later. Ashley, the stylist, gave Kayla a sweet little bob that framed her face and made her eyes look twice as big as before. When she was done, Kayla got balloons and a steak dinner (her request). She felt like a million dollars.
The next day, we put the braid in a plastic bag and mailed it to Zichron Menachem’s U.S. office.
I was awed by Kayla’s bravery and her urge to perform this incredible act of hesed (kindness) that is such a fundamental principle of Jewish life. I hope her experience can inspire other children to donate their hair as well.