“Walking down the hallways of her elementary school with her mom, Naomi acted like it was a normal afternoon. In fact, to her, it was – until she saw me.
‘CRYSTAL!’ I heard her yell, as her eyes lit up and her body picked up its speed. Before I knew it, I was receiving one of the biggest and warmest hugs I had ever received.
Until that afternoon, Naomi and I had never met – but she knew who I was.
If you saw us in the hallway of her school that day, and if you were paying attention, you might notice what we have in common: We were both born with purple port wine stain birthmarks, which cover parts of our faces.
I've been blogging about life with a facial port-wine stain birthmark for several years now, and yesterday I had the coolest moment ever. I had the joy of surprising a kiddo who follows me and who also has a birthmark on her face at her school. She had no idea I was in town, let alone in her school. This is a snippet of our time together – and her reaction to meeting me in her school's hallway was classic. To see the full video, go to www.facebook.com/travelinchick to check it out!..and get ready for your hearts to melt. Moments like this? This is why I do what I do from sharing my story, from writing to speaking…to help people realize they're not alone on their journey. #bodypositive #rolemodel #staymighty #facialdifference #portwinestain #vascularbirthmark #birthmark #birthmarkbuddies #birthmarkbeauty #birthmarkgang #beautiful #allsmiles #lovewhatmatters #inspire #beone #blogger #writer #speaker #encouragement #video #mustwatch #surprise #friends #friendship #loveit #instagood #love #roadtrip #travel #adventure #california #health #medical
For the last five years, I’ve been a prominent blogger in the birthmark community. From my blog to radio interviews, from Instagram to Facebook, I’ve shared about life with a facial difference and what that looks like – from the good times to the hard times. Sharing my story so publicly and on a regular basis, I do my best to be as vulnerable as I can be when I’m able, while hopefully encouraging others on a similar road. Over the years, it has been my goal to make a difference with my difference – to remind people to be kind to one another, no matter what others look like, or don’t look like. Whether they’re online or off. As a result, I can’t help but pray and hope that my efforts are making the world a kinder place for the next generation of kids born with facial differences.
When I share my story, I often hear from people around the world. Sometimes I hear from people who also live with facial differences, and sometimes I hear from their moms – like in Naomi’s case. Her mom, Tiffany, started writing to me a couple of years ago with questions about life with the birthmark, to my experiences with the laser treatments (which keep port wine stains healthy). And while we stayed in touch, both Tiffany and Naomi started to follow my journey together.
A few months ago, I was sharing my adventures on Instagram, and I posted about a road trip I was finishing. Wanting to hear and connect with some of my favorite writers and speakers, my mom and I had just traveled from mid-California to Seattle and were about to be on our way home once more. As my mom and I started to drive home, I received a message from Tiffany. Asking about our trip, she asked we had driven through her hometown. We had, and we were going to once more. Knowing we’d be so close to one another, and that connecting with people with the same medical condition away from a screen is such a rarity, I knew we had to finally meet.
The next day, there I found myself in Naomi’s elementary school, receiving the sweetest hug from a very surprised 9-year-old.
As our long embrace ended, her hands moved from around my waist to her face, still soaking in the surprise.
Still wide-eyed in excitement, she told me, ‘It’s so nice to meet you. It’s so exciting…I never saw someone else in person who had a birthmark on their face.’
Three in 1,000 people live with a port wine stain birthmark (most commonly found on the face or neck), and at 9 years old, I was the first person she saw in person with the same beautiful purple hue on their cheek. It was the first time she saw someone away from a computer screen who looked like her.
Moving from her school’s hallway to a local cafe, we had more time to talk. And although this was our first time meeting, even though we have a 17 year age gap, we already had many common life experiences.
Stranger’s uncomfortable stares.
We can relate to each other in ways most people can’t relate to us. We’ve heard a stranger’s unkind words and assumptions about our appearances, eyes have gazed too long on our cheeks, and we’ve felt the laser hit our skin to keep our beautiful birthmarks healthy.
But more than that? In the midst of the stares, comments, and medical treatments? We realized we had even more in common with one another.
Yes, our birthmarks have given us a unique bond – I can’t deny that. But beyond our brightly hued skin, we’re both human – just like everyone else. At the heart of who we are, we’re glitter-loving dreamers. We laugh whenever we get the chance, and we are loved by many. No matter what we look like, no matter what people tell us…We are both priceless overcomers, and we’re not alone on our journeys.
After we said our goodbyes that day, I got into my car and shut the door. As mom started the car, there was a knock on my window. There, Naomi stood, with one more thing to share.
Getting back out of my car, Naomi handed me a gift – the glitter, heart-shaped necklace she wore during our time together. The necklace she had dubbed her favorite, the necklace her cousin tried to ‘steal’ just weeks prior. The one she wore with pride. Insisting I take it, we ended our time together the way it began…With a hug.
As we drove away, I looked at the necklace and put it on with joy.
Knowing it was one of her most prized possessions, I realized the beautiful symbolism of her gift. For the last five years, I have been sharing more than just my story with the world – I have been sharing my heart. And now, here Naomi was, sharing her beautiful heart with me.”
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