I just finished the book Wonder for the second time. The first time I read it was years ago when I was still teaching middle school English. If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a novel about a boy named August. He has a rare genetic disorder that causes a terribly deformed face, as well as other physical abnormalities, although cognitively and emotionally, he’s extremely intelligent. The summer before fifth grade, his mom encourages him to attend regular school. Prior to this, he’d been home schooled, so in many ways, he’d been very protected from the outside world.
Throughout his year in fifth grade, he goes through many ups and downs. He has to face bullies and ridicule and ostracism. Adolescence is hard for everyone, but especially for someone who looks so very different from everyone else. The English teacher in the book highlights “precepts” in his class. A precept is a rule or principle intended to regulate thought or behavior.
Several of these precepts really stood out for me.
Sapho says, “What is beautiful is good, and who is good will soon be beautiful.” In this world of ours with all of it’s deceit, evil, lies, and bigotry, those who remain pure and good of heart will always be beautiful. Have you ever known someone who no matter how they look on the outside radiates beauty because of the goodness of his or her heart and intentions? I sure have. I’m honored and grateful to know such people.
“When given the choice of being right or being kind, choose kind.” This was said by Dr. Wayne W. Dryer. I’ve never been one to get in heated arguments or debates just so I can be right and have the last word. In fact, I don’t really understand folks who get satisfaction from doing that. I enjoy an intellectual conversation where everyone is entitled to their opinion, but I certainly don’t care about always being right. To me, it’s much more important to be kind and to not hurt someone’s feelings.
“It is better to know some of the questions than all of the answers,” from James Thurber. I feel life should be one long journey of discovering and uncovering, not an endless quest to know answers or get to some sort of non-existent final destination. I enjoy asking questions and being asked a lot of genuine, authentic questions (not judgmental or accusatory questions). An honest inquisitor wants to fully know another person or process a story. To me, that is true connection and understanding.
Some final words of wisdom are from Blaise Pascal. “Kind words do not cost much. Yet they accomplish much.” It’s really a very simple feat to say something nice to another person, but it seems some folks have trouble doing this. If we would all set out each day to say a few kind words to another person, I truly feel a cosmic shift could happen.
This book affects everyone who reads it. I loved it the second time as much as the first. For me, it was a reminder that life is about caring for others and seeing through deformities and facades to the soul of a person.
When I’m old and gray and looking back on my life, I’m not going to think about the times I won an argument or the facts I uncovered. When I’m old and gray, I hope I look back and see a girl who was curious, kind and understanding. A girl with a good heart who always had more questions than answers.