After multiple layovers and a long travel day from the corporate office, Lily was looking forward to getting home in her warm bed and soft pajamas. The work to revamp the new hire orientation packet had been grueling. Many of the staff had argued about a potential dress code provision about “natural colored hair”. Lily had recently dyed her own hair in solidarity and support of a sick family member, and this had spurred some controversial conversation on the appropriateness of hair color.
She looked up from washing her hands in the airport sink. In her reflection she tucked a strand of green hair behind her ear and turned her head in admiration of the emerald color. When she straightened her head back, she noticed a woman smiling.
Lily couldn’t help but notice the woman’s turquoise hair and bright pink lipstick. The woman had to be at least 70, but her shimmery silver shirt and dangling earrings brought a youthful look to her appearance.
“I love your hair color,” Lily remarked as she turned to dry her hands.
“I like yours too,” the woman responded. “What made you chose green?”
Lily relished in the opportunity to talk about her “why” behind the choice. “My niece has cancer. Our entire family is shaving their heads at the end of the month as part of a fund raiser for her. Some of us dyed our hair to bring awareness to her illness before the shave.”
The woman smiled in understanding, “I have a similar story” she began.“ My husband was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. I have been working as his caregiver and his advocate. The Alzheimer’s Foundation of America has been a great resource of information and support. This is their color. I feel like, if I can get people to notice me, then I can get them to notice how difficult this disease is.”
Just then another woman emerged from a bathroom stall and interjected into the conversation, “I couldn’t help but overhear your discussion,” she started. “My grandmother dyed her hair purple just this last year. She has always loved purple but never had the guts to do it. She loves how it makes her feel. She gets so many compliments and it’s a great conversation starter.”
Lily smiled at both woman, “I never thought of hair color as being the genesis of connection, but look at us here. Three unlikely strangers bonding over hair color. I think that is pretty cool.”
The turquoise-hair colored woman added, “We all have our own “why” don’t we. I think connection comes in all colors.”
Minutes later Lily found herself at the terminal coffee shop. She pulled out her laptop and sent a quick email to her co-workers. The subject line in the message was: Connection comes in all colors. In the email, Lily described her interactions with the woman at the airport.
She voiced her opinion that hair color does not define a person’s ability to give good care or be supportive of those being cared for. Quite the opposite, each person has a “why” for their personal self expression and often it can be a wonderful place to create connection. She added that the new hire policy on “natural hair color” needs to be explored further before it becomes a policy.
Satisfied, Lily closed her laptop and took a sip of her latte. She sat back in her chair and did some people watching. She saw a young man with tattoo’s and piercings pushing an older man in a wheelchair. He stopped, kneeled down and showed such great compassion to the man, it brought tear to her eyes.
Lily knew she would push the issue on the dress code. It was apparent that forms of self expression should not be used to define a caregiver’s ability. Great caregivers and connection comes in all shapes, sizes, styles and colors.