Is my preoccupation with the idea of kindness because I am adjusting to the fact that my oldest will be starting elementary school in the fall? Is it that I am around the 5-&-under set all day long and witness both trivial and monumental disputes on an hourly basis? Is it possible that R. J. Palacio’s book, Wonder, has entered my consciousness in ways I am still trying to figure out? Yes, on all accounts.
My husband and friends can attest to the fact that I am someone who is highly sensitive to the media that surrounds me. Books, song lyrics, and television all touch me in ways that can alter my outlook for weeks at a time. Because of this “media sensitivity”, we just do not watch scary movies in our home. Then, there was that time that I was reading The Black Dahlia and Gone Girl in book club, and I was sure my husband was evil. Believe me, he isn’t, but I think I slept with one eye open for a full week… You can imagine how much he loved that phase. Well, the opposite is true too. When I have been positively touched by a book, that sentiment stays with me as well and for a time becomes the lens with which I view the world.
Wonder, is that kind of book.
August Pullman was born with a facial deformity that, up until now, has prevented him from going to a mainstream school. Starting fifth grade at Beecher Prep, he wants nothing more than to be treated as an ordinary kid—but his new classmates can’t get past Auggie’s extraordinary face… In a world where bullying among young people is an epidemic, this is a refreshing new narrative full of heart and hope. R. J. Palacio has called her debut novel “a meditation on kindness”—indeed, every reader will come away with a greater appreciation for the simple courage of friendship. (from http://choosekind.tumblr.com/)
Each day we have the option to “choose kindness” in big and small ways that can have huge meaning to those around us. When we are in line for a cup of coffee, do you greet the barista with a smile, or feel annoyed that you had to wait? When you see that other preschool mom that never smiles, do you say “hello” anyway? When you fix yourself a cup of water, do you get one for your partner? When you are sitting at the lunch table are you the person that scoots over to make room for someone new? Or, do you look away? Whether out of fear, insecurity, and shyness over the years, I can think of too many examples where I have been one to look away. But… I’d like to be the person who moves over and makes room for one more. The one that smiles and says hello. A person who actively chooses kindness.
Recently, another preschool mom remarked that she enjoyed a post I wrote about struggling with friendships that are in transition (click here to read, In Between). She voiced that lately she felt as though she is “back in high school”. I think that what she meant by this is she feels the constant effort of trying to make new friends and find one’s place. We can all relate to this universal struggle. Yet it is see easy to see peers acting critically of one another, casting judgement without empathy. Aren’t parents (and women specifically) known for this frustrating behavior? In Wonder, there is a quote that states, “If every 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.” I feel like it all boils down to that. Being kinder than is necessary. Whether you are a child entering elementary school, a teenager searching for acceptance, or an adult still looking for your place, we can all choose kindness as a place to start. That much is within our power. If I could pass just one lesson onto my children, I believe this might be it. I think that these small acts can move mountains.
Wonder has started a national movement that I wasn’t aware of as I began writing this post. Kids are reading Wonder and realizing how important these acts of kindness are in our relationships. There is even a CHOOSE KIND pledge. There have been so many examples of hate and cruelty around us lately, it is possible to wonder if there is any good left in the world? But here is an example of love and grace. People are signing this pledge and believing in kindness (I think I am number 11,331)! Whether you sign the pledge or not, I hope that next time (and every time after that) you choose to be “kinder than is necessary”.