Often, when we take road trips, I become a human audiobook. It passes the time and reduces the bickering in the backseat. Last week, as we traveled to Northern Virginia for Thanksgiving, I read the book “Wonder” to our Savages. What a great book. It’s worth the read. Our daughters and I even went to see the movie this past weekend. Our son will see it this week with his school.
Without divulging too much information about the story, I’ll simply say that it came at the perfect time for our family. Lately, we’ve been having lots of conversations about bullies, the ones at school and the ones in the news.
“Wonder’s” author sprinkles precepts, or principles, throughout the book. They’re reminders of how we should treat one another. The first is “when given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” Sometimes, this is a hard pill for me to swallow. I REALLY like being right. However, being right at the expense of being kind isn’t right at all.
Our youngest Savage has dealt with a mean-spirited Queen Bee for over a year now. We’ve tried to coach her through various scenarios. Our son advised her on the classic yet still effective Pee Wee Herman comeback, “I know you are.” My husband said what daddies say, “If you hit her, you won’t be in trouble here.” I suggested the child maybe didn’t know she’s being mean, and our daughter should tell her.
Yet, despite our efforts, the incidents escalated. Enough was enough. In my frustration, I scrawled a note to the school explaining the situation and asking for an extra watchful eye. Our daughter’s teachers were amazing in their responses. I felt good about it. Then our daughter came home reporting that the bully was sad after being reprimanded, so our little girl apologized to her. “What?!” I asked. “She owes you an apology. Not the other way around.” Our sweet 7-year-old replied, “I was following the golden rule.” Essentially, unlike her mom’s natural inclination, our youngest Savage chose being kind over being right.
Another precept from the book is “your deeds are your monuments.” How we treat others is how we’ll be remembered. You can’t watch the news without hearing another story about an abuse of power or celebrity. The thinking behind seeing something (or someone) you want and taking it without permission is completely unfathomable to me. I’m reminded of the seagulls in “Finding Nemo,” yelling, “Mine, mine, mine” without regard of anything or anyone else. Our oldest daughter asked, “Why can’t people treat others equally? You know, treat them the way you’d want to be treated.” I told her I wish it were that simple. Although, deep down I wonder why it’s not.
At the end of “Wonder,” the characters write their own precepts, simple rules governing who they are or want to be. Maybe the author’s onto something. Just like in the book, following a few simple, moral rules might certainly do wonders.
First published Dec. 6, 2017