Anyone can make lemonade from lemons, but Newbury Park hair stylist Michelle Robertson can squeeze joy from rocks! After spending 25 years honing her creative skills and building a loyal clientele, the coronavirus arrived and challenged Michelle to meet her clients’ needs and bring light to those experiencing the pain of social distancing.
The Conejo Valley’s thriving beauty industry was no match for the pandemic. Thousands of stylists and barbers were forced to abandon salons and clients, while scrambling to file for unemployment and pursue other options. Salon space rental fees and business and living expenses were unrelenting, as financial avenues evaporated. Clients needed to choose health and welfare over appearance and social opportunities.
Michelle noticed that depression and anxiety were increasing as social distancing began taking a toll, particularly for elderly clients. Lucrative services requiring chemicals, rinsing, and lengthy styling sessions abruptly halted as buildings and bathrooms were closed. Frail and elderly clients were unable to bear the heat and lack of privacy and comfort as services were only outdoors. Michelle’s aging clientele was facing the ravages of age, feeling more alone than ever, and she was desperate for a solution.
On a neighborhood stroll, she realized that the smooth roadside rocks could be transformed to convey messages of hope to her neighbors. Determined to “be the change she wanted to see in her world,” Michelle swapped her styling shears for a paintbrush. Rocks with messages of “Strength” and “Smile” appeared throughout Newbury Park neighborhoods. “The unknown was so upsetting, and I wanted to do something to keep impacting lives in a personal way,” said Michelle.
Neighbors were delighted to discover the surprise stones in their driveways, on easements, and on walls, sharing stories of their finds on neighborhood app Nextdoor. Connections were building with neighbors, and even more people began creating and distributing message rocks. Evening neighborhood strolls became opportunities to find the ambassadors of encouragement.
For one young boy and his parents, the rocks represented beacons of light. Mason’s sparkle had diminished with the absence of school, friends, and park visits. As painted rocks appeared at his home, Mason’s spirits began to lift. Small puzzles and gifts followed. The “Rock Fairy” was delivering hope while building an enduring friendship.
“Michelle took a child who was angry and sad to be missing his first year at school and helped him find happiness. School was ‘his job’ and it no longer existed, along with friends and adventures,” said Mason’s mom Casey. “He lit up when he saw his first rock, and he looks at his rock collection every day now.” Mason enthusiastically added, “I loved the rocks! They made me happy. The SpongeBob rock is my favorite!”
The pandemic has painted a bleak picture for friends and neighbors who are losing businesses, livelihoods, homes, and health. While Michelle’s talented hands may not be transforming many hairstyles these days, they have definitely rocked the Newbury Park neighborhoods by healing hearts with her messages of hope.