As you may already know, I have an amazing and wonderful granddaughter, Amy, who is my role model for resilience. Her remarkably resilient response to all of the challenges (narrow spots), medical exams, tests and procedures she has experienced in her 10 years of life with cerebral palsy and epilepsy sets a high standard for accepting “what is” and moving forward for everyone – most especially me.
Amy and I “keep each other company” on the phone – usually FaceTime – almost every morning. Often we read to one another. Each of us has a copy of the book and we take turns, page by page, chapter by chapter or paragraph by paragraph. We recently finished reading the book, Wonder by R. J. Palacio. This book is truly wonderful.
Wonder tells the story of August Pullman, a ten-year-old boy with severe craniofacial abnormalities. Auggie goes from being home-schooled to entering fifth grade in a private middle school in Manhattan, within walking distance from is home. Auggie is bullied and isolated by most of his classmates, befriended by only a few and courageous in his valiant effort to be just another boy in school. It is a remarkable story of resilience.
While reading this book together, I asked Amy, who is certainly “different” from other girls in her class, which characters she thought were most like her. Her answer was always the students who befriended Auggie – never with Auggie or with the bully and his “peeps”. There were several places in the story where I cried empathetic tears with this young boy trying to fit in – undoubtedly projecting my fears and judgements on Amy and her classmates.
At the end of the book, during his commencement address to the fifth and sixth graders at the school; the principal, Mr. Tushman quotes from The Little White Bird by J. M Barrie, “Shall we make a new rule of life…always try to be a little kinder than necessary.” Tushman goes on to quote another book, Under the Eye of the Clock, by Christoper Nolan, in which a young man who is facing some extraordinary challenges is treated kindly by a classmate: “It was at moments such as these that Joseph recognized the face of God in human form.” The simple and powerful act of kindness. Palacio goes on to have the principal deliver a profound message to the students, their parents and to those of us reading the book: “If every single person … 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…the face of God.” That is a profound message, indeed.
Today and everyday – Be just a little kinder than necessary.