The 13-year-old who made my day


I first saw her as she burst through the door of the hair salon where I was getting my hair cut.

Smiling and long-limbed and energetic, she could barely contain her excitement… she was about to get her hair – which she was extremely tired of – cut off. It was a moment she’d been waiting and waiting for.

Before the 13-year-old arrived at the salon, my hair stylist told me that the girl had been growing her hair for three years to donate to one of two organizations: either Locks of Love, a non-profit organization that provides hairpieces to financially disadvantaged kids who’ve lost their hair for various medical reasons, or to Pantene Beautiful Lengths, which gives wigs to women who’ve lost their hair to cancer.

From the mirror in front of me, I watched the girl back in the waiting area as she and her mother thumbed through magazines, looking for a new hairstyle. Captivated by both her spirit and her selfless, three-year mission – and because I thought that at some point I should explain why I was watching her so interestedly – I told her that I’d heard about what she’d done.

With a broad smile, she nearly bounced over to my chair to answer my questions.

Valarie Allman

She told me that she got the idea to grow her hair after a neighbor grew hers in order to donate it to Locks of Love. She said she was really excited about being able to do this. And she told me she pretty much hated her long, uncut-for-years hair style.

She was hoping it met Locks of Love’s length requirement but, if it didn’t, she was okay with that. She said she just wanted to help someone.

She bounded back to her mother and the magazines. I thought about what an appearance-oriented age the pre-teen and teenage years can be, and how she lived with hair that she’d grown very tired of – hair she couldn’t style into the latest look or barely even get trimmed – in the hope that someone else could live a better life.

With my hair cut finished, I got out of the stylist’s chair… and the girl nearly vaulted into it. Her hair was pulled back into several ponytails to be cut.

“Someone should take a picture of this!” I called out, like a proud aunt (or just an overly involved stranger who happened to be lucky enough to share the moment). Her mother held up the camera she’d brought and I breathed a sigh of relief.

I didn’t stay to watch the cutting, thinking that this should be their time, with no backseat involvement from the overly involved stranger lady. But I caught the girl’s eye as I turned to go.

She smiled widely. I smiled widely. And, after leaving the salon, I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of the day.

[Note: I later found out her name and did an interview with her. You can hear it in the post titled "Cool, inspiring people: Valarie Allman."]