Hassan’s Gift: A Story Of Unexpected Inspiration

By Jamie Sussel Turner ~

With all the difficulties in the world today, stories that make our hearts sing are needed more than ever. So, with that in mind, I’m re-posting a story I first shared in 2013. Here is Hassan’s Gift:

Would you notice a beautiful moment of inspiration if it greeted you by surprise? Would you come away from the moment changed in some way? Would that change last?

Marta, a salon owner I coach, told me exactly such a story. My eyes teared up as I listened, a sign it was a story worth sharing.

So, with Marta’s permission, here is her story.

Marta’s moment of inspiration

Marta was in London attending training at the Toni & Guy academy. Knowing she needed a hair model, she was drawn to the perfectly straight, healthy hair of an 18-year old Pakistani-born boy she spotted across the room. Hassan agreed to be her model and she began cutting his hair and talking with him.

Marta’s conversation with Hassan explored many topics over the length of the haircut. As they were about to part ways, Hassan graciously offered to help Marta find her next destination in the unfamiliar city. They talked as they walked and Hassan invited Marta to join him, his girlfriend and others, for a night out that evening. He casually added, “I’m not sure where we’re going but I’m not able to eat anything.” Marta asked why, anticipating it had to do with religious reasons.  With a matter-of-fact tone Hassan replied, “Well, I’m having surgery for lung cancer tomorrow.”

At just 18.

Marta was stunned. This lovely young man who had been so very charming, gracious, and helpful was facing a long road and life-threatening illness. And here he was allowing her to test out her new scissoring skills on his beautiful hair and including her in an evening out—enjoying life as if he had no worries at all.

Marta’s pivotal moment

Marta’s perspective on her life was changed in that moment. As she told me,

“If Hassan could be positive and happy with a health crisis looming, then who am I to get stressed about daily life and salon stuff?”

It was as if Marta’s gratitude expanded exponentially upon comparing a happy person’s serious life circumstance and with her unhappy outlook on typical leadership and life challenges. Her perspective changed with the realization that maybe it would be possible for her too to choose happiness over stress.

Now back in New Jersey, Marta emails Hassan from time to time. His optimism continues to emerge, even in his post-surgery emails. In one message he wrote of how lucky he was to have a hospital bed by the window and even more lucky to feel the warmth of the sun on his face—in typically rainy London.

Here’s a young man who is noticing and enjoying the simple pleasures of life even while facing a life-threatening health issue. This is a sure sign of his strong emotional intelligence, especially in the areas of realistic optimism and resilience. Hassan expects his health setback to be overcome and within his power to manage in the most positive way possible.

And, Marta keeps Hassan’s photo handy on her cell phone—a ready source of inspiration and reminder that her troubles aren’t so troubling.

Would this lesson have grabbed us?

Stopping to smell the roses is easy when we’re out for a summer stroll. What’s more challenging is to recognize that the roses are there awaiting our enjoyment, in the midst of difficulty.

Many people discover this through adversity. I had to have cancer to get this lesson. Thankfully, for Marta, she just had to know someone with cancer to learn the same lesson.

Unexpected inspiration can happen anywhere and at any time. Marta traveled to London expecting to be inspired by hair and instead was inspired by a young man who chooses to live a happy life—no matter what is on his plate.

We often go though our busy lives without this sense of alertness. Would we have noticed an inspiring moment, as Marta did? Would we have allowed it to grab hold of us and knock some wisdom into our heads and hearts?

So, I’d say we never know where inspiration will come from. There are lessons all around us and when we connect with others we have a chance of receiving them. What would you say?


Photo of Hassan courtesy of Marta.


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