“I always wanted long hair since childhood, but my mom was a doctor and was busy with her professional commitments. She thought it was best for me to have short hair for easy maintenance. As years passed and I was capable enough of handling my responsibilities, especially hair, I got a chance to grow it out. I was so proud because I could finally braid it and have different hairstyles. Thanks to my genes, I got silky straight hair, so people often used to ask me what shampoo I used or what the secret behind my hair was. I used to brush them off saying, ‘Good genes, you see.’
Eventually, I got married and moved to the USA. It was difficult to maintain my long hair, one reason being the water didn’t suit me and my hair started falling out. While browsing Facebook, I came across a hair donation post and was surprised to see there was a special organization that uses donated hair to make FREE wigs for kids who suffer from cancer. I was so touched with this post that I wanted to do something good for the kids.
It took me a while to research it and find out the place where I could donate was in my city. After I was satisfied with my research, I had to convince my husband. I thought it was going to be tough for me to convince him, but to my surprise, it was like a cake! He said, ‘Your hair, your wish.’ I was relieved and planned for my very first donation.
In February 2016, along with my family, we went to our local Great Clips Salon. I was pretty nervous because I knew my hair would be completely short and it would take time for me to accept it. But the thought of ‘I am going to make someone happy in this world,’ kept running through my mind. And that’s what made it worth it!
I sat in front of the mirror while the hairstylist measured my hair length. She said it was going to be short after 12 inches were cut off because she needed to even it out later. I gave her the okay because for me, it’s all about the smile I was going to give one unknown person. The stylist braided my hair into three sections and chopped it off. My 3-year-old daughter looked at me with wide eyes.
‘Ah!! Mom!! Look at your hair. It’s gone,’ she said.
‘It’s okay, sweetie. It will grow back, right?’
I was happy but a little sad. I loved my hair and now it was gone.
I have a habit of sharing good or inspiring news on social media. I posted my big chop on my Facebook page, my blog, and a Facebook group. To my surprise, people were inspired by me. They took all the details and donated too.
I got connected with cancer survivors. They thanked me a lot and said, ‘You know, you are not spreading happiness to just the survivor, you are spreading happiness to their whole family.’ I was spellbound. I didn’t expect one small post to have such an effect on others. I got a letter from the organization telling me they received my ponytail. Oh! I was the happiest girl on earth. That was my first time donating, but I decided it wouldn’t be my last.
In between all these good memories and achievements, I had to go through a lot of criticism from people, even my loved ones, because they did not accept the change. They did not understand the concept of donation, wigs, or cancer. There were a few who said, ‘You wasted 12 inches of your hair just to donate to some random person? Are you sure it’s going to be made into a wig? Are you sure they will give it for free?’
‘Are you crazy?’ Why did you do this to your beautiful hair?’
‘This hairstyle doesn’t suit you at all. You just look good with long hair.’
‘You should have donated to the god at the temple. You don’t know what they will do with your hair.’
I wasn’t affected by any of these comments when I went on a vacation to my home country. It’s not everyone’s job to accept change, and I accept that. It was my decision, and I was happy with it. I didn’t bother with what others thought because, after all, it was my hair and my decision.
Eventually, my hair grew back over the next year and a half. In July 2017, I donated again! This time I was more confident and proud. I could again see the ripple effects when I posted in the groups. People who were apprehensive about donating were able to clear their doubts. My heart was full and filled with happiness. This time none of the people questioned me, as they knew I was doing something for a cause.
You know the best part of chopping off my hair and donating? I look quite younger once I do it. It’s so refreshing and sometimes change is good!! By seeing me donate my hair, my daughter decided she wanted to too. In December 2018, I took her to Great Clips. The stylist was very excited to see an 8-year-old doing this for a cause. Seconds before the actual cut, my daughter changed her mind. She said she loved her hair and didn’t want to cut it. We respected her decision and told her it was her choice. If she is not ready, we wouldn’t be cutting it. The woman at the salon said, ‘You can come back when you are really ready, Darling.’
In December 2019, she was ready, and my hair was too. So, it was a mom and daughter hair donation day!! We both were excited. I went for the hair cut first to make my daughter comfortable. As soon as she sat on the chair, the lady said her hair is exactly 12 inches and it would be too short once we chop off. So, she suggested we wait for three more months and come back. My daughter was a little sad because she couldn’t donate with me. We decided we would go again sometime in March to see if it was long enough.
One day when I went grocery shopping, I met an old friend whose daughter was suffering from alopecia. My friend had long hair when we previously met, but this time her hair was short! Out of curiosity, I asked her if she donated. She confirmed she did, and I told her I did too. We were so happy that we were doing our part for people like her daughter. We hugged and continued with our shopping. A few weeks later, I got a message from her saying her daughter got approved for a wig!! I was crying happy tears after seeing that precious message. She thanked me for donating too. My heart was full again!
As we approached March and we were planning about my daughter’s hair donation, COVID happened and the whole world came to standstill. On top of that, we had to move back to India for good during this crisis. So, we moved back to India with a heavy heart. Once I reached the hotel for quarantine, I got a message from a friend; it was her donation photo. She did it too and wanted to show me.
Three months passed, and while I was combing my daughter’s hair, I casually told her, ‘You missed your donation.’ She said we should try donating in India. As soon as she told me this, I researched and found a reliable source who makes free wigs for kids and booked an appointment. He came the very next day and was happy to see her donate the hair.
This time I asked her many times before the actual haircut, ‘Are you okay with this?’ And she said, ‘Yes mama! I am ready to make someone happy.’ She donated her hair for the very first time, and I am sure it won’t be her last. Now looking at her, she reminds me of myself when I was 8, but she is braver than me for sure! And when the time came to chop it all off, guess what she said! ‘I wanna do it a second time!’ It gets easier every time.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Shilpa Arya of Hyderabad, India. You can follow her on Instagram. You can check out Wigs for Kids here. Submit your own story here and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories.
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