I think there must be a course in cosmetology school called “Chair Conversations.” I imagine the syllabus beginning with “Small talk with first-time customers,” and culminating in “Counseling your long-term clients.” A successful hairdresser, scissors in hand, needs first of all to establish trust. Conversation is essential.
I had a new stylist cut my hair today. First she inquired about my hair regimen. She caught on quickly and smiled. “So, if it takes more than 5 minutes, that’s too long, right?” I liked her.
Then she began with the usual conversation starters, to which I politely responded, asking the same of her. “Do you live here in town?” “How long have you lived here?” “Do you have kids?” I learned that she had recently moved back from out of state, and that she is the mother of three, ages 13, 7, and 2.
“So, what do you do?”
It was the moment of decision all pastors know. Sometimes the true answer shuts down all further conversation. Sometimes it opens the door to hairy questions. Sometimes it results in rants against religion. But it’s not my style to hedge and say that I sell fire insurance (ha ha). So I admitted, “I’m a pastor.”
This time it led to something significant. She opened up, sharing as she snipped. When she lived here before, she attended a certain church. I recognized the name, a small charismatic congregation. But since her recent move, she had heard that a lot of people had left, so she wasn’t sure what to do and hadn’t been back. It just wouldn’t be the same. I wondered to myself if the congregation had been diminished by one of the community’s growing megachurches. “I think you should go back to that church,” I told her. “Kids need a church.”
“Oh, I know they do,” she answered. “I probably will. Who knows, maybe it will even be better than it was.”
It doesn’t take long to cut my hair. We talked of other things as she finished up. But as I was paying my bill, she circled back to the church conversation. “The church I went to in Idaho, it was really small, but the pastor and his wife were so good to me. I was single and I had to work nights, and they babysat my kids, even the baby. They just took such care of us. My kids think of them as their grandparents.”
Yes, kids need a church, a community of people who will be their extended family. Who will give them shelter and love, and will make sure they do their homework and will clean up their spitup. Who will surround them with prayers and encouragement when they are teenagers and make big mistakes. Who will support their parents when parenting is hard, and who will teach in word and in action the importance of faith. Kids need a church. Adults need a church. We all need a community where we share spiritual questions and answers, hold each other accountable to live moral lives, and learn to love one another.
Somewhere in the cosmetology curriculum, or in the school of life, there ought to be room for sharing how precious it is when small talk leads to significant conversation, and the person in the chair and the one with the scissors both go away wiser.