Today, I had my hair coloured and cut. I enjoy the extravagant amount of time that takes, and the experience of being pampered. I don't go to a fancy, expensive hairdresser (I did a couple of times, but really objected to the cost) This hairdresser's salon has been there for years and its customers are mostly older ladies who have been going there for years. It's not in my parish but I wish something like it was.
There are two hairdressers but they do so much more than look after people's hair. Many of the regulars come every week, and one lady who had been in hospital was enthusiastically greeted by another customer today with a cheery "We missed you!" My hairdresser was off after work to see one of her customers at home - an old lady on her own who was struggling with her Freeview box, and the analogue switch-off around here is imminent. The hairdresser was off to see what she could do to help. She often takes her customers home or offers to pick them up from hospital appointments. Concern is shown if customers don't keep appointments. Phone calls are made - "Are you OK?" There is a taxi driver who often drops off customers and who will pick up their pension at the next-door Post Office during their appointment. These are good people doing small acts of kindness for their neighbours and making valuable connections as they do.
It often strikes me that this is a real community hub. News is exchanged, advice sought and given, and people are cared for - not just their hair but their whole selves. This is a bit like how our churches at their best can be. We're not church simply to care for people's spiritual needs but their whole person. And that is what I see in that small, not-very-modern hairdresser with an extensive network among some of the most vulnerable in our society, and the willingness to serve them. It's a holy place.
And, although it's not in the parish, another customer was at a talk I gave to a ladies' group and reported back to the hairdresser afterwards. Thankfully it was a favourable report, as I really don't want to upset someone who is regularly colouring my hair!