A Wonder to Behold

“When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.”
– Dr. Wayne W. Dyer

Last year, I finished reading ‘Wonder‘ by R.J. Palacio; I also watched the movie, which was directed by Stephen Chbosky (the same guy who directed ‘The Perks of Being a Wallflower’). I’m sure most of you will have heard about it by now, given that the movie’s out, but the basic plot of the book follows a boy named August ‘Auggie’ Pullman. Auggie considers himself an ordinary kid; the problem is, the world doesn’t necessarily share that view. See, August has a rare genetic disorder called ‘mandibulofacial dysostosis’, a form of Treacher Collins Syndrome which affects the development of the facial bones. As Auggie says, “I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.”

The book, and movie, follows August as he navigates through school for the first time ever, as a fifth grader at Beecher Prep. Ah, prep school. I’m not entirely sure what exactly that is, seeing as I’m Australian, but I do know that fifth graders are typically 10 years old, so that would place these kiddos in primary school.

I don’t know about you, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve been ten years old, and I regret to say that I don’t actually remember what it was like being ten. Because of this, it was a bit of a stretch trying to remember how ten year olds act and feel while I was reading the book. Nevertheless, the book was lovely in its simplicity. The use of perspectives was ingenious, and truly shows how people can impact each others’ lives. But the best thing about ‘Wonder‘ has to be how much faith it has restored in me about the kindness of humans.

Given what’s been going on in the world lately, I must admit, I’ve been struggling to find something good to write about. But ‘Wonder‘ (both the book and the movie) has helped give me hope once more. See, the thing with ten year olds, is that they don’t have filters. So when kids meet Auggie for the first time, they stare. They don’t mean it in a rude way (usually) and August admits that if someone unusual – like, say, Chewbacca – suddenly walked into the school, he’d stare too. The trick is to go beyond the staring, beyond the ‘being-polite-by-not-staring’, and show kindness by truly getting to know someone. Which is another thing that children are so good at doing.

“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love…” – Nelson Mandela

Children have such an interesting perspective of life. Some would call it naivety. I like to call it a unique sense of wonder (if you’ll pardon the inexcusable pun). Children are tirelessly curious, especially about our world and the people in it. They make the best scientists and artists if given half the chance. And whether we like it or not, they almost always tell the truth. Like I said: they don’t have filters. Until, of course, adults teach them.

There’s a scene in the movie that I think perfectly shows this. In the movie, a child is accused of bullying (which is obviously a serious matter) and the parents are called in to discuss their child’s behaviour. Instead of being disappointed in their child for their behaviour, the parents are disappointed in the school system for failing their child. All because the school allowed a kid ‘like August’ to be a part of their halls. One of the parents even photoshops August out of the class photo!

“We want people who come to our house to ask about our son, not the Pullman’s!” is the parent’s argument. If that doesn’t show you how self-centred this parent’s filter is, then this next bit should. The parent goes on to rant about how unfair it is that they are being called out for photoshopping August out of the class photo, and how ‘stressful’ it is for their child to be ‘forced’ to befriend August.

Mr. Tushman (the principal) tells them that Auggie can’t change his face, so maybe we should change the way we look at him. To which the parent snorts, “Why don’t you tell that to the real world?”

But here’s the thing; the real world can also be filled with people like those parents. The only difference is that people in the real world also have the capacity to apply a more open-minded filter. While those parents refuse to see past physical appearances, the rest of the world has the opportunity to truly get to know a person. While those parents worry over their reputation, the rest of the world has the chance to ignore this and simply accept a person as they are. We just have to get past the politeness and choose kindness.

“It’s a call to kindness.” – R.J. Palacio in an interview with ‘MovieTickets.com’

I am so glad that ‘Wonder‘ was made into a movie, and for once in my life, I can confidently say that the movie actually follows the book. And not at a distance with a 100 foot pole (looking at you, ‘Percy Jackson’ movies). The book and the movie complement each other perfectly, and through the combined influence of both, shine a light on the importance and power of being kind.

Song of the Post: It’s got to be ‘We’re Going To Be Friends’ by The White Stripes, which was featured in the movie. Mind you, this is just a snippet of the song, but it also gives you a little look at what ‘Wonder‘ is like. Enjoy, and here’s to a year filled with kindness!

{Featured image created using the Wonder-ous Portrait Creator}

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