Laura’s Love Letter: Rio’s Rainbow & Alopeica Awareness
Thank YOU for being here! A lot has happened in the two weeks since we last connected. For those of you who might not know, I’ve had a condition called Alopecia Areata since the age of 10, with all of my hair falling out by age 11. It was then I began wearing wigs for nineteen long years. It was a roller coaster ride of shame, depression, being bullied, and never feeling like I fit in. I dragged myself through addictions and harmful behaviors until, finally, a clearly answered prayer that gifted my life and the world I Love You More. I was praying for my nephew and sister, who was pregnant with her second child, when the idea for I Love You More poured through me. The book was clearly written for my sister and family, but it also pulled me out of the darkness.
As I’ve shared before, we sent the book to print on September 10, 2001. It was then I realized it was written so we might all know, especially our children, no matter what’s going on in our lives, or in the world around us, how truly loved we are.
This week, a precious child, Rio Marie Allred, a 12-year-old with Alopecia, took her life after being relentlessly bullied in middle school. Grappling with this tragedy, it came to heart to add: No matter what others say or do, no matter what’s going on in your life, or in the world around you, always know how truly loved you are!
This child taking her life hit the Alopecia community, and, of course, her family and friends, hard. We were rallying for #RiosRainbow when Sunday night at The Oscars, and the slap heard around the world happened. In a situation like this, I don’t think it’s the best use of our time and energy to debate who was right and who was wrong, what we wished people had done or had not done, but to look at how this is a teachable moment. What I do know is millions more people are aware of what ALOPECIA is and that it exists. There is so much to consider. For instance, children that are bullying others at school are often experiencing issues at home. It’s never going to work to only punish their behavior. Bigger conversations, healing, and transformation are being called for. How can we expect our children not to bully when far too many ‘adults’ have become disrespectful to downright vile and evil, not only online, but also in person? How far is too far in comedy, movies, music, video games? I see this more as a matter of responsibility than censorship, though I realize there’s not an easy solution.
I know personally I feel a whole lot brighter and lighter when I listen to music by Andy Grammer, Jason Mraz, and Michael Franti than when lyrics are negative, degrading and misogynistic. When I think of Will Smith’s reaction I tense up, versus Lady Gaga’s gesture towards Liza Minelli, where I feel a sigh of gratitude. Again, I see awesome opportunities to have conversations that matter with our children - what is Alopecia, what’s a reaction versus a response, what’s funny and what’s not, choosing kindness over violence, what is protection and self-defense? I am not saying I have the answers, I am clear I do not. But, if we want a kinder world, where and how do we start?
**The young boy in the picture above is John from my hometown of Marshfield, MA. We had an extraordinary visit. He was in first grade at the time, his sister was in 3rd or 4th -- siblings of children with Alopecia are effected too, and there was a 2nd grade teacher going through chemo who had lost her hair. We had awesome conversations that made a difference for everyone! I recently heard from John's Aunt, who shared that day truly impacted John and his family, as she and his grandparents were able to eat lunch with us the day of my visit. He's in high school now and writing his own book for children about Alopecia!
We’ve all heard about RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS, but have we taken on the practice of doing them? They can make someone’s day and, at the same time, fill your heart with JOY! Here are a few easy ways to practice kindness:
All of these moments of connection and kindness help make the world a better and brighter place!
Feel free to screenshot, or right click (on desktop), save and share! Tag #lauraduksta and follow me on social!
I had the awesome opportunity to mentor at one of the Children’s Alopecia Project Camps the last week in February in Central Florida. Please reach out to them here if you have a child experiencing Alopecia, or pass their information along if you are aware of a family. Let’s do it for RIO!
I also visit schools and it makes a profound difference for children with Alopecia and those going and growing through any challenge, including school faculty. My program, “YOU are a Star...Keep Shining!” is an author visit, as well as an inspirational experience. The National Alopecia Areata Foundation is another important resource. Let’s all remember to ask ourselves...What Would Love Do?
The Children's Alopecia Project is NOW raising $14,000 to keep their camps free for all children with Alopecia. YOU can donate here if you'd like to help these children know they belong, matter, are beautiful, enough, loved and MORE! Visit CapGivingDay.org, Venmo @ChildrensAlopeciaProject, or Text CAPKIDS to 610-890-4191. #CAPkids #TeamCAP