Thursday, May 14, 2009

May 15th, Vascular Birthmark Foundation, International Day of Birthmark Awareness

As newborns we preferred to fix our gaze upon the faces of those around us. When we lacked a living human face to observe, our attention was instinctively drawn to shapes and patterns which approximated the features, and mirrored the symmetry, of the human face. Scientific research has repeatedly demonstrated an innate human appreciation for (and attraction to) symmetry in facial features.

Wisdom and maturity eventually allow us to see with our hearts as well as our eyes, and then we learn the real truth about beauty . . . it doesn't really abide in physical features, but emanates from the soul. Of course, there are always some people in the world who received less than their fair share of wisdom and maturity. Children are often cruel and insensitive towards peers who lack traditional beauty or are otherwise "different." As adults we know this. We were kids once.

As parents we understand the implications of "being different" as it pertains to a child's development of self-esteem and confidence. So we prepare our kids for a world where compassion and tolerance may be lacking. And if we are really doing our job, we'll go a step beyond--and teach ALL of our children to be decent and respectful to one another and in the world at large.

As an ani-bully, I feel strongly that International Birthmark Awareness Day is a good idea. We all have some kind of birthmark, most often something simple like a handful of inconspicuously scattered moles. This awareness day, however, is meant to focus on birthmarks that are much less subtle.

Vascular birthmarks such as hemangiomas ("strawberry marks") and port-wine birthmarks (correctly called "nevus flammeus") are diffcult to ignore . . . They attract unwanted attention because they are large and colorful . . . and they frequently occur on one side of the face, disrupting the oh-so-important-symmetry that our species values.

The Vascular Birthmarks Foundation is sponsoring this awareness day. Their website is a source of information and support for individuals and families affected by vascular birthmarks. Recognizing the need to reach children on their own level, they've published an awareness story book written by Donna and Evan Ducker to provide age-appropriate education. Before leaving their website, be sure to check out a very compelling essay with many photos, Mei's Hemangioma Story, written by the adorable Mei's mother, Tara.

Visit to learn about other types of large birthmarks, Large Nevi and Neurocutaneous Melanocytosis.

Recommended reading for teens, with or without a facial birthmark, North of Beautiful by Justina Chen Headley. I have only read the synopsis and reviews, but those were enough to convince me, I will most definitely read this book.

"No human face is exactly the same in its lines on each side, no leaf perfect in its lobes, no branch in its symmetry . . . All things are . . . more beloved for the imperfections which have been divinely appointed . . ." ~ John Ruskin

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