Thursday, January 31, 2013

Helping Others With What You've Got: How Alia Let Go Of Her Locks

by Why? Foundation Street Team Member, Alia Tarraf

I love having long hair.  Its part of my personality.  It tells the world a big part of who I am and what I'm feeling on any particular day.  I can wear it part way up on days I want to feel like a Disney princess.  Or pulled back in a bun when I mean business.  Or a messy ponytail when I feel artistic and creative.  Sometimes I even wear it down just because I want to hide from the world.

Like so many women, my hair is a part of who I am and very often, I've allowed it to define me.  We're told that its a part of our beauty.  And our beauty is so wrapped up in who we are and can unfortunately dictate our confidence levels.

So when I saw my friend, Julie, with a freshly shorn bob at a party after college one night, I marched up to her and demanded to know what happened to her long beautiful chocolate brown hair.  She replied nonchalantly, "I gave it to Locks of Love."  Oh great, some hippy dippy charity.  "What's that?"  I asked, bewildered.  "It's a charity that makes hairpieces for people who don't have hair due to a medical condition."

No.  No, I was not going to feel guilty for this.  Julie wasn't condemning me at all, she just simply told me what I had asked.  She had almost shrugged.  Shrugged off that she didn't care her long hair was gone.  Now, I know this all might sound incredibly vain and silly, but I had somehow linked my worth to my beauty, i.e. my hair.  Julie was helping someone else, and had the self-confidence to do it, and I didn't.

I went to bed that night and couldn't stop thinking about it.

I decided to go on the Locks of Love website, just to check it out.  Not that I would do anything.  It turns out that Locks of Love not only provides hairpieces for people who don't have hair due to a medical condition, they specifically help disadvantaged children under age 21 suffering from long-term medical hair loss from any diagnosis.

 "Our mission is to return a sense of self, confidence and normalcy to children suffering from hair loss by utilizing donated ponytails to provide the highest quality hair prosthetics to financially disadvantaged children.  The children receive hair prostheses free of charge or on a sliding scale, based on financial need."

Seriously?  Who are these people?  Because they just turned me into a jackass in about two seconds.  Was I really going to let my vanity and insecurity come before a disadvantaged child with no hair because of a medical diagnosis?  Who had I become?  My problems suddenly seemed super lame.  1. These kids are dealing with a medical condition, from alopecia areata to cancer.  2. They lose their hair because of it.  3.  They don't have the means to fix it.  Yeah, it was time to get over myself.  I needed to do this and if I lost my attractiveness, well, hopefully it would grow back.

I walked into the salon the next day.  I had googled salons in my area that were associated with Locks of Love and this one gave a free haircut with a hair donation.  They have them all over the country.  The hairstylist braided my hair, measured the minimum 10 inches required to donate, asked if I was ready, and cut it off.  I'm not going to lie, I may have cried a little.

The salon sent it in the mail to Locks of Love for me the next day.

I'm not saying you need to go out and cut off all your hair.  But I learned there are so many ways we can help others.  Something as small as donating your hair can go such a long way and mean so much to someone else.  This was a wake-up call.  Sometimes I get so focused on myself and can't see past my own nose.  Which, by the way, I wish was smaller.  But seriously, when I remember that so many others have been dealt a much harder hand, I am so humbled.  And I can help.  Even if I don't have the means.  I can donate my hair, I can run an errand, I can volunteer.

And you know what's funny?   I liked my bob.

A reminder from India Arie - I Am Not My Hair

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