I saw a little boy, my brother --
whom I love and accept for what he is --
showing some young children he knew,
a beautiful weeping willow tree,
one of the wonders and beauties of nature.
Walking behind him, they were pointing
and laughing, whispering and nodding --
while my brother, walking, staggering but happy,
had no knowledge, was unaware
that they were making fun of him.
He didn’t look back,
the children kept laughing and giggling
but he didn’t see.
They wouldn’t have cared if he did,
and he probably wouldn’t have caught on.
People think that if some people are different
in any way that they are like machines
that they have no feelings, need no love,
need no friendship nor understanding.
But they need it even more than we,
because they are constantly being rejected, left out or put-down,
and although it may not show at the beginning,
it is wearing a hole through their hearts
and we must help them before it goes all the way through.
Many years ago, I found this poem in a newsletter. It resonated deeply in me, so much so, that I have kept it in a safe place since my college days. My oldest brother suffered through teasing and name-calling when he was in school, causing me much sadness for one so undeserving of this kind of treatment. This book powerfully brought me back to some of the feelings associated with my love for my brother and the injustice our family felt due to some people's unkindness toward him.
Wonder starts with a boy, Auggie Pullman, heading off to school for the first time in fifth grade. Many surgeries and hospital stays due to his facial differences kept him homeschooled until this time. In the opening paragraph he tells us that he knows how people react to his face:
"I know I'm not an ordinary ten-year-old kid. I mean, sure, I do ordinary things. I eat ice cream. I ride my bike. I play ball. I have an XBox. Stuff like that makes me ordinary. I guess. And I feel ordinary. Inside. But I know ordinary kids don't make other ordinary kids run away screaming in playgrounds. I know ordinary kids don't get stared at where ever they go."
Ordinary kids eventually have to go to school. Finally he has to face his facial differences and see if he can fit in to a rowdy classroom of fifth graders who were, up to this point, unprepared for him. A few weeks before the first day of class he and his mom go to the school, meet and talk with the principal, and take a tour led by a few of his future classmates, Julian, Jack and Charlotte. This was the start of his eventful year as a fifth grader at Beecher Prep School.
On the first day of school the children feel shocked, finding his face so different from any face they had ever seen. Their initial reaction is to totally reject Auggie, make fun of him while, at the same time, fearing the plague if they even touch him! Later they learn more about him: his sense of humor, his intelligence, and that he has feelings, which lead to an understanding which finally enables them to accept and even like him.
At the end of the book the principal, Mr. Tushman, gives a final speech to the graduating class of fifth graders and their families.
“Children, what I want to impart to you today is an understanding of the value of that simple thing called kindness. …. what I want you, my students, to take away from your middle-school experience, is the sure knowledge that, in the future you make for yourselves, anything is possible. If every single person in this room made it a rule that wherever you are, whenever you can, you will try to act a little kinder than is necessary - the world really would be a better place. And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God."
Yes! Kindness for people who are different from us is a trait we adults are still working on.This is a lovely book and a beautiful movie.
I only wish all children everywhere could experience such a happy ending.