My four big girls had their hair chopped off this week. The cumulative total was 45 inches of hair for Locks of Love, an organization that provides wigs to children who have lost their hair due to cancer.
It was fairly surprising to me how easy it was for them to lose 10+ inches of hair each — they were even excited. But as for me, I had that familiar feeling of wanting to hold on. Those darling curls, those long, shining, tresses. Gone.
Just a little thing
Of course, it was just a little thing. I know their hair will grow back, and I am glad that I didn’t let on to them my melancholy attachment to something they could let go of so easily for a good cause.
It reminded me of the day that we were going through our basement trying to clean out some clutter, but also looking for things that we just haven’t been using and don’t need to hold on to anymore. We were thinking of Cardinal Arinze’s famous words:
If you haven’t used it in more than a year, it doesn’t belong to you anymore. It belongs to the poor.
That’s when Madeleine found a doll she hadn’t played with in a long time. “I want to give this one to St. Vincent de Paul, Mommy.” I looked at the doll and realized that it was an American Girl doll. I felt a rush of that feeling of: Yikes. It’s gonna hurt to let go of this.
I asked if she was sure, since it was a nice doll. She quoted a “Glory Story” she had heard about St. Katherine Drexel and reminded me that Jesus wants our best, not our leftovers.
The joy of giving
Just like with the girls’ hair, I know that the attachment to things is not something children seem to naturally struggle with. In fact, these are likely learned behaviors. We can learn a lot from our children about generosity and about the joy of giving something valuable to someone who needs it.
As I look at 45 fewer inches of hair over the next few months, I hope it can remind my own attachment-prone heart of simple, joyful, and self-forgetting giving.
(Mandie DeVries, Director of Religious Education, All Saints Parish)