Over the years, stylists have described how magical it feels to be able to bolster a client’s confidence or renew their self-esteem through a transformational cut and color. Recently, I had a small taste of that excitement, when I volunteered to spend the night with a group of 20 homeless women and children who were sheltering at our temple during the month of August.

As the evening volunteer, I was asked to bring a healthy snack, but I also knew that the only form of entertainment in our fellowship hall was a few jigsaw puzzles and after a week, those had to be growing boring. So, I looked around my house and boxed up a dozen nail lacquers, including some neon, glitter, and crackle shades.

When I got to the makeshift shelter, the women and girls were leaving the bus that had transported them from the day shelter, and were making a beeline for their cots. Some grabbed up books, others even opened their laptops, but most were engaged in solitary activities. I spread the polishes out on the snack tables, and it wasn’t long before the youngest girls gravitated toward them. Soon, they were experimenting, giggling and painting each finger a different color. I smiled to myself when I overheard the bus driver remark, “That’s the first time I’ve heard you girls laugh all week.”

Before long, the teenagers joined them, helping the young ones finish off their ‘writing’ hands and blowing on their each fingertip, before they began to deciding what colors to polish their own nails. They were a little more curious about whom I was and why I had brought the polish, which lead to questions about my job with the magazine.

I really thought the experience would end there, but it didn’t—it only got better.  When the teens finished, the mothers, single women and even a few seniors took over the table and got down to business. They kicked off their shoes, washed their feet and proceeded to give themselves pedicures and manicures.

The room came alive with conversation, as these quiet individuals came together as a community. They layered glitter and crackle polishes over solid lacquers as they talked about how the shades matched what they were wearing the next day, and one young woman Heather wondered aloud if her boyfriend, who was staying at the men’s shelter, would notice her new purple toes. They swapped stories about their day’s events, and shared advice and comforted one another. And, each one of them thanked me profusely.

I know it was only the briefest of gestures in the scope of all that they are facing in their lives right now. But to be able to give them even a few moments to relax, share, and pamper themselves was a magical experience for me.