Saturday, March 30, 2002

Faith Matters

Easter spirit finds young girl

        Thousands of us will pull on our bonnets, spit-shine the shoes and head to the nearest steeple on Sunday.

        We'll be elbow to elbow in crowded pews, singing “He is Risen,” with stomachs grumbling from the 25 Peeps we ate before we left home.

        Then comes the sermon.

        Ministers have ripe fruits to pluck for this year's Easter lesson.

        Catholic priests could talk about resurrection and new beginnings to a flock reeling from sex-abuse scandals.

        Members struggling with whether to support the Rev. Billy Graham and his mission or stay away at the request of boycotters could hear about the promise of one people in Jesus Christ.

        Ecumenical leaders could preach about Easter's promise of hope for peace in the Middle East.

        For Rachel Whitehurst, the Easter message is a little simpler.

        It's about loving and giving, says the 8-year-old from Addyston.

        Rachel sounds like a pretty typical second-grader at Miami Heights Elementary School. She's learning how to throw a softball and likes to swim. She's a member of an American Heritage Girls group, and she loves animals. All animals, but especially birds.

        Some things, she just knows.

        Like that Jesus wants people to do good things for each other.

        So when her mom suggested a way to help out somebody else, Rachel didn't have to think about it for too long.

        She kinda wanted to get her hair cut anyway. All 10 inches of it. Sometimes it took 20 minutes to brush out the long, blonde hair that reached her waist. It tangled a lot, and besides, another friend's short hair was really pretty.

        Carolyn Whitehurst told Rachel about Locks of Love, a nonprofit group that uses donated hair to make wigs for kids. Most of the time, the children have lost their hair because of a medical condition called alopecia areata, which has no known cause or cure.

        A stylist at New Image Hair Design pulled the little girl's long hair into a ponytail.

        “Then they just took the scissors and sliced it right off,” she says.

        They mailed the hair to Locks of Love (

        Rachel's 2-year-old sister Leah didn't even recognize her. The blonde hair reached just under Rachel's ears, in a cute bob a long way from the old style.

        At so many churches, pastors will talk about the lessons of the holy season, and we'll listen dutifully.

        But Rachel Whitehurst already lives the story.

        “Jesus likes to do things for other people,” she says.

        “I try to be like him, but nobody's perfect. I just thought that's the least I could do to help.”

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