Chances are you’ve attended a wedding ceremony where someone read from the First Book of Corinthians: “Love is patient; love is kind.” It’s a popular Bible verse that describes love so beautifully, but when we think of love, how often do we associate it with kindness?
Sometimes it is the little kindnesses that mean the most, but when kindness is shared so selflessly, those memories last forever. And if that kindness comes from a complete stranger? Those are memories that not only stay with you, but memories that can change who you are.
Napa resident Jennifer Salciedo never expected a trip to the nail salon would change her life.
“I used to get my nails done a lot, but after I lost my job in November, it wasn’t as often,” said Salciedo, 28. After a few weeks of job hunting, she decided manicured nails might give her a confidence boost and help her exude a sharp appearance that would win over potential employers, so she decided to go to a salon in Napa.
She brought her 6-year-old son Ryan along and talked with him quietly while she waited for her appointment. She chitchatted with other women in the salon as her son snacked on his lunch and played with a toy that came in his kid’s meal. Nothing about that afternoon seemed extraordinary, but it’s what happened next that Salciedo said will stay with her forever.
“I was halfway through getting my nails done when the girl told me that the woman before me had paid for my nails,” Salciedo said. “I almost cried. I asked what the woman’s name was and why she’d paid and the girl doing my nails gave me a note that made me smile and get teary-eyed. I’d been going through a lot and was so appreciative.”
The note left for Salciedo said: “You are so kind and patient to your son. Keep up the good work as a mom. And good luck on the job hunt. Pay this forward some day when you are able. Have a happy day.”
Salciedo said she and the woman hadn’t spoken. They had only shared passing smiles. Salciedo was so incredibly moved by the gesture that she said she intends to pay it forward whenever she can.
“I just wish I could say thank you,” she said. “I would tell her that it meant the world to me to know that with the few caring and kind people in the world, I had a chance to experience that in a stranger. I have been going through so much, and I appreciate it more than she will ever know. I plan on making this (paying it forward) an ongoing thing once I am settled and find a job.”
Caitlin Phillips can relate to Salciedo. She, too, benefited from the kindness of a stranger — in a Napa salon no less.
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When Phillips learned her mother was diagnosed with cancer, she felt helpless. She would be unable to be at her mother’s side during chemotherapy and radiation treatments because her mother lived out of state, but in an act of solidarity, Phillips vowed that she would cut her hair when her mother began to lose hers.
“The decision to cut my hair came rather easily actually,” said Phillips, 20. “I had tossed around the idea for a while but never had the courage to do something so drastic. When I found out that my mom was sick, it was the push I needed to do it.”
Phillips went to a Napa salon to have her hair professionally cut. As a stylist cut her hair, which fell past her shoulders, Phillips talked about her mother’s cancer treatment and why she decided to crop her hair so short and donate it to Locks of Love, a nonprofit that uses donated hair to make wigs for cancer patients. The stylist praised her for her act of kindness, but Phillips didn’t think her haircut would mean much to a stranger.
When Phillips went to the register to pay for her haircut, the stylist informed her that her haircut had been paid by a fellow customer, a gentleman who had been sitting next to her.
“I was so shocked. I hadn’t spoken to the man or ever really noticed him, to be honest,” Phillips said. “I asked the woman if he was still here, but by the time I got to the parking lot, he was already gone. I went back inside and gave the cashier my name and phone number in case she saw him again, but I never heard anything.”
Like Salciedo, Phillips wishes she had the opportunity to thank her anonymous friend for his kind gesture. “I’d love the opportunity to thank him,” she said. “I think what makes what that man did for me so special is that we live in a society where we are so inundated with negative things and bad news and sadness, it’s small things like that that remind us there is good in the world. It reminds us to stay focused on the positive things in life.
“If I could meet him, I would want to tell him what a big deal the haircut was for me and for my mom, and I’d want to thank him and probably give him a hug.”
Phillips mother endured six months of treatments and is cancer-free today. Phillips has decided to keep her hair short. Not only is the style easier to maintain, but it helps her remember the kindness of the stranger whose simple act of paying for a haircut changed her outlook on the world she lives in.
It doesn’t take much to be a hero in Napa, according to Phillips and Salciedo. Sometimes it’s the little things — a manicure or a haircut — that make all the difference.