A Helping Hand
Snip. Snippity snip. Yelena, her dyed yellow hair swept up in a tight knot, pulls my hair by the roots. With exquisite precision, her nimble fingers find a line, and cut straight across. My hair meets her lightening quick scissor blades, and red strands peppered with white cascade to the floor.
As she cuts my hair, we share our stories. We are both immigrants living in Israel, she from Ukraine and I from America. She is Christian, and I am Jewish. I am married, she is divorced. We have practically nothing in common except that we are both mothers of young children, and have no family here.
She says, “I came to Israel with my husband, but since the divorce, he rarely sees our children. My 10-year-old daughter threatened suicide, and needs counseling. My mother, back in Ukraine, was very sick. I had been sending money to her. I kept saying I am so busy with work, trying to make ends meet. I’ll go visit her after the holidays. But she died of a stroke. She was 59 years old.”
“The truth is,” she continues, “I would love to return to Ukraine, but I can’t afford to give up my business. Besides my children are not immigrants like me. They were born here, so they speak Hebrew, and not Ukrainian. My home is foreign to them. I am foreign to them. Yet they are not fully Israeli either. They are children from two different worlds,” she sighs.
As she finishes my haircut, I wish there was something I could do for her. I know that when you are overwhelmed in a country not your own, it is often hard to find the help you need. At home I made some phone calls to find a support group for immigrant single mothers in our area. Days later, contact numbers in hand, I knocked on her door and handed her the note. She sheepishly smiled her thanks, and held out her smooth, clean hands to me and squeezed mine in hers for a sharp, sweet second.
I would like to think that in that moment there were no boundaries between us. No difference between Jew and Christian, Ukrainian and American. Just two people searching for a place to belong, searching for connection. Sometimes all it takes to conquer the cycle of loneliness is a helping hand.