Martha was born with a cascade of long, shiny, straight black hair. Her naturally beautiful and noticeable long hair which is the object of envy among hers friends makes Martha very vain. She thinks it is the most beautiful thing in the world and she couldn’t go out of the house without its customary brush of a hundred or so strokes and her efforts are rewarded with gazes of awe mixed with envy.
Understandably but unnecessarily, Martha considered her hair the most important thing in her life. She wouldn’t let anybody touch it and she allots several hours of one day in a week to give it a special treatment of scalp massage with freshly made coconut oil. Just like Narcissus who fell in love with his own reflection in the water, Martha couldn’t get away from the mirror to brush and admire her exceptional crowning glory.
As her hair grew longer and more beautiful each day, Martha started to look at other girls’ hair first with pity. ‘Too bad they don’t have hair as beautiful as mine‘ she thought, then with disgust, ‘I couldn’t live with hair as ugly as that!’ earning her mother’s admonition which Martha brushed off.
If at first she only kept her opinions to herself, she soon voiced them out and got away with it. The girls whose hairs she criticized would simply go away with embarrassment. Consequently, it became Martha’s habit to look at other girls’ hairs and say something bad about them.
Then one day, a package arrived at Martha’s house. It was a bottle of overwhelmingly sweet-smelling shampoo. Written on the card was a message:
‘Yours is the most beautiful hair I’ve ever seen. Use this shampoo and be more beautiful still..’
Martha never used any other shampoo with her hair apart from the one she’s been using since she was young. So, she decided to throw the package away. But she read the message again and thought that it wouldn’t be bad to be even more beautiful.
She kept the bottle contemplating all along whether to use it or not. But after a few days, vanity got the best of her. She opened the bottle, poured a generous amount of the sparkling shampoo on her palm and lovingly caress her hair starting from the roots down to the tips.
As Martha anticipated, her hair became even more beautiful. She couldn’t think how it was possible but her hair seems to get even smoother, shinier and darker. This, however, made Martha even more proud and vain.
She’s been using the shampoo for quite some while when a few strands of her beautiful hair started to fall. She ignored it for it was natural for the old hair to fall off to be replaced by new ones. But the following day, there were more, and even more on the next day after that. In just a few days, almost half of Martha’s hair has fallen off. Her mother had her checked by a doctor. It was found out that the mysterious shampoo was in fact made of the sap of a toxic plant that grew deep in the forest. Luckily, it was not poisonous enough to kill Martha but her hair would never grow back.
Martha cried days and nights, but her hair continued to fall off until there wasn’t any left. With love and pity for her daughter, Martha’s mother tried to console her..
“My child, sooner or later you have to stop feeling sorry for the hair you have lost. Now you know where vanity could take you as well as how far a person would go to pull you down. Whoever sent you the shampoo could be someone who envied your hair or someone whom you criticized. As there are many of them, there is no way to tell who it was, and there really is no point in finding out. Whoever she was, she wasn’t evil enough to have you killed but hated you enough to take pains to find such plant and let you live to suffer the loss of the thing you valued the most.
“But when you really think about it, it wasn’t even the sender’s fault. You had a choice to use or not to use the shampoo. But since you were too vain to want to be more beautiful than you already are, you use it anyway even if you didn’t know what it really was.”
Humbled by her now bald head, Martha started to treat other people with kindness. At first, she thought that people were laughing at her head which she wrapped in a bandana but eventually, she realized that nobody cared about it anymore, so, she stopped caring as well.
Martha began treating people gently and kindly. Her kindness which stemmed from her humility over her lost hair became genuine compassion. She talked with people with such consideration and understanding careful not to hurt their feelings in any way but make them feel good about themselves.
One day, a girl with one blind eye held Martha’s hand and said..
‘Miss Martha, you are the most beautiful girl I’ve ever seen…’
Then Martha remembered the message attached to the bottle of shampoo. Her eyes watered and tears fell down as she murmured a genuine thank you to whoever sent the poisoned bottle for making her more beautiful than she ever was.
Note: The toxic plant is fictitious, invented by the blog author to write this story.
(Original story by the blog author. Any similarity with other stories, fiction or otherwise, are purely incidental.)