A while before having Adalyn, my lovely sister-in-law recommended the book "Wonder" by R.J. Palacio. It was a book that brought tears of joy, inspiration, and at times....sadness. (Side note...if you haven't read it, run to your local library or buy it here. If you're not a reader, no problem. There is a children's book of it that's amazing! Buy it here )
A simple overview....it's the story of a young boy with significant facial malformations (hate that word....I'm going to call them extraordinary features). It's his journey of taking a courageous step and starting public school....the cruel bullies....genuine souls....and self worth he discovers in the process.
Little could I ever grasp at the time how significant that story would be in my life.
Flash forward to our time with our own Wonder.....welcoming Adalyn into our world.
As I looked into her little face for the first time, I saw none of the malformations the doctors had forewarned us about. I saw my perfectly beautiful little girl. I saw her brave soul...her perfect face, toes, fingers and sweet lips. Throughout our time with her, my eyes were continually opened to how beautiful and loving she was.
So often in the time that she has now been gone, I find myself pondering what life would be like with her here. My mind plays out two scenarios. The first, she's completely healthy, happy and growing....discovering her world each day. The second, she still has all of her health problems...and we continue to soak up the good we have with her. How would that be? In either case, we would remind her each day how special she is...how wonderful.... But how would others be? Would children be kind? Would they point, stare and mock....blind to what I could see? Would parents rush their kids by and tell them to look away? Would she know her features don't take away from her beauty....rather...they add to it?
Or would she, like August in "Wonder," be afraid of the cruel way people respond?
These days when I see a parent of a child with any type of special needs or illness...my heart floods with countless emotions...
In my mind....I can see the way they make their child feel loved. I see the sleepless, tear-filled nights they spend wondering what their child's future holds. I see their fight for their child's life...to make beautiful memories regardless of circumstance. I see the drain of countless doctor's appointments and hospital stays. I see the tired eyes when people point, stare...and rush by. The ache of wishing someone would just treat them like a real person....and say hello to them and their child. I see how brave they are for even leaving the house.
Most of all.... I see their child. I see how brave and strong their souls are. I see how they have fought for this life. I see the joy they bring, even amidst trial. I see they could have a Doctorate degree in teaching love and kindness. I see the depth to life they have given to all those who surround them.
So often in today's society, I think we are too quick to pass judgement and condemnation without even attempting to understand. We are far too quick to be cruel...and push out kindness..
Though this was brought to my mind originally because of special children....I soon realized that it's a problem that seeps into every aspect of our lives....raging like a unrestrained wildfire...
Today, if someone has a different opinion then our own, they are horrible. If someone likes Donald Trump, they are stupid and uneducated. If someone likes Hilary Clinton, they are a naive rock hugger. If someone is vegan, they are a crazy hippie. If someone eats burgers and steak.....they support animal cruelty and hate the environment. If someone is from the Middle East, they must be a terrorist. If someone has a tattoo.. they must be a hoodlum. If someone dresses nicely....they must be a snob. If someone is a stay at home mom, they lack goals and dreams. If someone is a cop, they must be a racist or quick to kill.... This list could go on and on...
It's like a poison that has affected everyone... it breeds mental illness, depression, self doubt, anger and feelings of inadequacy...Feeling like one needs to constantly defends one's purpose.
How did we get here??? When was it that we stopped respecting each other, as people, regardless of differing opinions? When did "trolling" even become a thing? When someone disagrees with us, when did it become the norm to belittle and put them down....shoving our opinions down their throat until they agree in defeat?
In the children's book "We're All Wonders" by R.J Palacio I think she states the remedy...
"Far far away, the Earth looks so small. I can't see any people, but I know they're there. Billions of people. People of all different colors. People who walk and talk differently. People who look different, like me!
The Earth is big enough for all kinds of people. I know I can't change the way I look, but maybe, just maybe, people can change the way they see. If they do, they'll see that I'm a wonder! And they'll see they'e wonders, too!"
Each and every person wants to be loved and valued. Each person has a story. A journey. A wonder within their soul..
So maybe, instead of rushing your child past another with special needs, whispering to them not to stare..walk up to them. Smile. Teach your child that life isn't about seeing differences...It's about seeing wonder.
Next time you want to belittle someone for having a differing opinion...open your eyes to actually see that person. See that you can share your different opinion without being cruel. Seek respect. Seek to find the good.
Anytime we lump any one group of people as "terrible," "stupid," "ugly," or "worthless," we slowly lose our empathy and compassion for each other. And that, my friends, is something this life so desperately needs. This world has enough violence, injustice, and negativity without us adding to it.
As R.J. Palacio's children's book concludes she states "Look through kindness and you will always find wonder."
Each and every day, I feel grateful and humbled that our sweet Adalyn helped open my eyes to wonder..It took a perfectly pure little girl who radiated love to show me that physical issues and trials we may face cannot take away the beauty, strength, and wonder of the soul.
Because of her...and so many other wonders we have met in this life, I will strive my hardest to teach her bright little brother to have eyes to see wonder in all things. After all, it's something that already shines in his big, blue eyes.