You know how sometimes you come across a story that moves you in a deeply personal way, and offers just the kind of hope that you needed? Well get ready for a story that does just that.
The other day, I was scrolling through Facebook when I caught a new post from Love What Matters, featuring the image of a beautiful, smiling woman named Crystal Hodges, and the inspiring story of what happened to her at the post office that day.
Before I even read the post caption, I noticed that the young woman in the photo had a prominent birthmark on her face. My mind immediately flashed to my 4-year-old, who has a noticeable birthmark on his neck, and I wondered somewhere in the back of my mind whether that was going to play a role in her story somehow.
Sure enough, it did. But not for the reasons you might think.
“Standing in line at the post office today, there was a middle-aged worker helping us,” Crystal writes as she begins the story. “Looking at me, he spoke up, ‘Do you mind if I ask you a question?’”
As someone who has lived with a large facial birthmark all her life, Crystal goes on to explain that she’s used to people asking questions about it, and that’s what she expected to happen. But instead of asking her yet another question, the man had something else to say entirely — something wonderful and heartening.
“[I]nstead of asking me a question,” Crystal writes, “[H]e told me, ‘My daughter has the same birthmark as you do. And actually, so does my niece. I know many people can be unkind with how they react to birthmarks like yours, but just ignore them. You are beautiful.'”
He’s right — Crystal is absolutely beautiful. And it’s awesome for her — as well as the many people who she shared this story with — that someone took the time out of his day to tell her so. Not only that, but to also remind her that she’s not alone in her experience, either.
Crystal’s post on Love What Matters is quickly going viral, with 66K likes, over 2K shares, and over 1K comments so far from people who found her story extremely moving and relatable. And let’s be honest: Right now, it’s a breath of fresh air to see a group of internet commenters spreading love instead of hate, and finding ways to connect instead of critique.
Just scroll through the comments and you’ll see strangers telling Crystal she is beautiful and thanking her for her message. And there are hundreds of commenters sharing pictures of themselves or their children, either with birthmarks similar to Crystal’s, or other physical differences.
Speaking with Babble, Crystal shared more about the incredible moment at the post office that day, and opened up about what the reaction to her story has been like so far:
“The moment was too beautiful to not share,” she tells Babble. “I wanted to encourage others with birthmarks and physical differences who have experienced some of the same difficult experiences to know that there are kind people out there, people who see their beauty and their worth.”
I can tell you that already my young son has been taunted for his birthmark. It’s a brownish color, and covers most of his neck. Children have asked him if it was “poop” or “mud.” In a certain way, I think these children were too young to know much better, but it still stung when he told me what happened.
So I can tell you with certainty that it means a lot to know there are people like that man at the post office who are willing to offer kindness without being prompted — who see the need, and just go for it.
But it wasn’t just me who was personally touched by the story. Crystal shared some more of the reactions she’s gotten with Babble:
“[P]eople wrote to me [saying things like], ‘No one has ever told me that I’m beautiful.’ And that has got to change. People need to know that they are beautiful — no matter what they look like, or don’t look like. They need to know that there are people who understand their journey, and that there are people who are rooting for them — and sometimes that’s the stranger at the post office.”
Crystal also has a bit of advice for children growing up with physical differences: She wants kids to know that they always have a voice, and shouldn’t be afraid to speak up for themselves. She recommends that children band together with supportive friends and join online support groups for birthmarks or other differences.
And she has some great advice for getting through the darks times, too — because everyone knows it’s not always hope and love when you are dealing with a physical difference day in and day out.
“They are some days and situations you overcome with zeal, and other days you barely survive,” Crystal tells Babble. “Please know that both days are OK. Sometimes there are days that are emotionally draining, and depending on your condition, some of you even experience health scares that leave you unsure if you have another day left on your life’s timeline. But here you are, reading this article. You’ve made it this far. You’ve survived, you’ve overcome more than you realize. You are amazing.”
If you found Crystal’s message inspiring, there’s more where that came from: She tells Babble that she’s an author, speaker, and advocate on the subject of living — and thriving — as someone with a physical difference. You can also check out her YouTube video, “Making a Difference,” where she shares more about her journey toward acceptance and self-love. And also check out this post on her website called “Embrace You,” where Crystal commissioned 50 artists from around the world to paint her portrait. The portraits are stunning and will absolutely blow you away.