remember her friendliness and determination to pull me out of my shell that
first day of class upon arriving at an unfamiliar school. She offered an
encouraging smile and quickly introduced herself to me. Sensing her
kindness, I quickly found a seat close to her in class, where I remained
the entire year. On that day, a friendship was born.
We quickly became best friends and spent all our time together, whether it
be listening to the soothing tone of our teacher reading Charlotte’s Web during story hour (we both cried for days at the
ending) or playing dodgeball and tetherball during recess against the
backdrop of southern Oregon’s majestic pines. I especially loved getting
permission to spend the day at her house, where I always felt safe and
secure. Our days were spent running through sprinklers to cool off,
listening to music, and talking for hours upon end. Plus we generally got
to stay up late!
Going to school became a joy, not just because I loved to learn, but
because I loved to see my best friend and talk to her. No matter what was
going on at home, seeing her smile in the morning as I arrived kept the
darkness at bay, even if only for a temporary moment.
But it wasn’t just me that Monique showed kindness to—she was always the
first to share her lunch, notice if someone seemed sad, or take time to
point out the birds in the trees on the playground and the beauty of their
song. It seemed second nature for her to notice the everyday miracles that
we so often miss.
One day, after a particularly tough night when my father had decided to cut
my long hair short against my wishes, I was embarrassed to go to school. I
couldn’t hide my bloodshot eyes from my classmates. Embarrassed, I avoided
everyone and wouldn’t even talk to Monique, despite her constant attempts.
Feeling ashamed, and convinced that I looked like the Bride of
Frankenstein, I counted down the minutes until school was over so I could
return home and run away from their gaze. Even though no one had said
anything, I felt that all eyes were on me. Finally the bell rang, and I ran
to the school bus, never wanting to return. Unfortunately, that wasn’t an
Riding the bus the next morning after tossing and turning all night, I knew
I needed to apologize to Monique. I hadn’t meant to take my circumstances
and sadness out on her. But she was nowhere to be found. Had I lost her
friendship for good? Sadly, I realized that if so, I deserved it. It hadn’t
been her fault, and I’d been so dismissive and self-absorbed the day
before. I hadn’t even given her a chance to say anything, and I knew I had
hurt her feelings. As the bell rang announcing the start of class, I
figured she wasn’t coming to school that day and I was to blame.
Having another night to ponder my actions, I prayed to God to help me make
things right. Once again I was unable to sleep, but for a different reason
this time. “Please, Lord, please let her forgive me,” I prayed over and
over until I finally fell asleep, exhausted.
When I got off the school bus the next morning, I immediately noticed
Monique standing to the side waiting for me at her normal spot. Yet she
looked different. Where just days before her long locks had grazed her
back, today they were shorter and skimming her shoulders instead. She
looked great! Happiness flooded me as I realized that not only had she
returned to school, but she didn’t even seem to be upset with me!
“What happened? Where did your hair go?” I asked her, still stunned.
“We’re friends, right? I told my mom I wanted short hair like you, and she
took me down and got it cut. Sorry I wasn’t here yesterday. I would’ve
called you, but you don’t have a phone at your house. Plus, I wanted to
Unable to speak, I felt the tears rising. I couldn’t believe she’d cut her
hair—for me! Feeling her arm link through mine I managed to respond, “We
are friends . . .Best friends!”
And somehow, looking at her with her newly cut, stylish hair, I no longer
felt shame. I felt strength, acceptance, and God’s divine grace. She had
sacrificed her own beautiful hair to make me feel better and not alone.
When Monique moved to California a few years later, her warmheartedness and
the remembrance of her kind actions stayed with me. It left an unmistakable
imprint on my heart. And when I looked her up on Facebook years later, I
wasn’t surprised to see that she had become a youth minister. She had been
meant for a life of ministry and started her calling in school around me.