As most of you know, my younger sister (Sister Hot Mess) is 17 years old and has Alopecia. (At the time of this post, she was 17. Yesterday, New Years Day 2014, she turned 23) Alopecia aereata is a genetic autoimmune disease for which there is no known cure, YET! This type of disease does not only affect adults, but children. Boys and girls, this disease doesn’t discriminate! She has had it since she was born and has been very blessed to have been, and still is, surrounded by a community that embraces her looking different and supports her. And while looking different on the outside, they have all been able to look past that and see that she is no different of a person on the inside. There are many different types of support groups and national conferences where everyone meets to share in their experiences and support each other through the years, very similar to the NAMI conventions that we have. As she transitioned from her old school to a new one during her high school years, she was a bit nervous as to how she would be perceived, but after her first two weeks, things seem to be going well.
Until last night (September 2008). Sister Hot Mess hopped online to join her online support group at their usual meeting time, only to find they were missing one person and the mood within the group was not good. You see, they had all just found out that their missing group memeber, 15-year old Ryan, had been murdered at school by another classmate. The even bigger tragedy was that it was not a random shooting. This classmate murdered Ryan because he “didn’t like the way he looked,” because Ryan had Alopecia.
Everyone fights for being treated equal, and especially right now, with everyone in the spirit because of the election, I think we all need to really take a few minutes and think about how we treat others, how we are treated, and how we can try to convey to kids today that it is NOT OK to kill someone because they aren’t like you. Kids will be kids. Teasing and poking fun of someone is undeniable. We all did it and had it done to us when we were kids, however I don’t ever recall things getting to be this violent. But these extreme acts of violence are against someone for something they CAN’T HELP. It’s just incredibly sad to me that people even think of doing things like this, especially at this young age. I think that as we all are getting older and having our own children, we need to stress the importance of respect for others. While you don’t have to be friends with everyone or even like everyone, it’s NOT OK or acceptable to kill them because you don’t.
In a culture where beauty on the outside and image is weighed so heavily upon, these kids (and adults too), have learned how to embrace their own beauty and stand together and do everything they can to help find a cure. I think we all need to take some lessons from them to help ourselves learn how to embrace our inner beauty and not be so focused on our outter beauty. As we age, our physical appearances change so much, but what’s inside of us is what counts and usually remains the same. Yes, we learn more lessons as we age, but we are still the same inside no matter how we change on the outside or how we look compared to others.
My sympathies go out to Ryan’s friends and family. My hopes are that something like this will not happen to anyone else.
Here is some information on Ryan and NAAF:
2013 UPDATE: THE INDIVIDUAL WHO BROUGHT THE GUN TO SCHOOL IS NOW 18 AND HAS BEEN TRIED AND SENTENCED AS AN ADULT. DUE TO OTHER CRIMES AND BEHAVIORS, HE HAS BEEN SENTENCED TO LIFE IN PRISON.
POSTSCRIPT: HERE IS A VIDEO MADE BY SISTER HOT MESS ABOUT ALOPECIA. You can also find this video posted on her new Facebook page called Shine On With The Bald Princess at www.facebook.com/thebaldprincess