The Wonder of Auggie: What His Story Taught Me

“And if you do this, if you act just a little kinder than is necessary, someone else, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”  Mr. Tushman, Wonder

Wonder. It’s the best-selling book that has sold more than 5 million copies, with a movie adaptation that brought families to theaters in droves. What is it about author R.J. Palacio’s story of Auggie, a 5th grader born with serious facial abnormalities who enters public school for the first time, that has tugged on our collective heartstrings in such a powerful way?

Perhaps it’s the fact that this story allows us to see the world through Auggie’s eyes. When we have the opportunity to see the inner pain of a child who is bullied and hurting, particularly one who lives every day of his life feeling “different,” it’s powerful. It touches us. It provokes us to have discussions with our children about kindness and empathy and the importance of standing up for those who don’t have a voice. As moms, we want our kids to do what’s right even when the world around them isn’t. And, Wonder drives that point home with force.

But, you know what I’ve realized? The wonder of Wonder is so much bigger than my kids. If I want my children to see the world with empathetic eyes, it starts with me.

For all the Auggies out there – children whose special needs, medical conditions or learning challenges set them apart from their peers and make them feel alone and different at times – there is a cast of supporting characters. And, at the helm, there is a mom, just like you or me, who loves her child more than anything in this world. She sees life differently, and her child’s pain is consequently her own. Why did the scenes with Auggie’s mother, who Julia Roberts so beautifully portrayed in the movie, make me ugly-cry?  Because I was seeing the world through her raw and powerful lense.

Imagine, for a just a moment, what it would look like if we, as mothers, played the lesson of this fictional story out in real life. What if we walked around to the other side and chose to see the world from a vantage point that is not our own? It takes more effort than picking up a book or sitting in a movie theater, but what if we put our arms around those women whose roads are a little bumpier than ours? What if we set aside indifference and asked how we can help instead of pretending that we don’t notice the challenges other moms face? What if we truly supported our sisters whose children require a larger degree of care and understanding than our own?

We would change the lives of those around us.

And, there’s a powerful residual effect at play here. Our children are watching.

As a wise friend of mine likes to say, when it comes to parenting, most lessons are caught, not taught. We can preach kindness all day long, but if our kids don’t see us extending that same love and understanding to others, our words fall flat. If we want to raise empathetic kids, we must lead by example. If we start seeing the Auggies around us through the eyes of the moms who love them, we may just spur generations of kids to “choose kind,” too. Can you imagine a world like that?

As Mr. Tushman, the wise and loving principal of Auggie’s school says, ““Auggie can’t change the way he looks, but we can change the way we see.” Yes, Mr. Tushman, you are right – we can all change how we see, and that includes how we see mamas just like us who love boys and girls just like Auggie.

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Tracie is a Florida girl who fell in love with Atlanta’s southern charm after graduating from college. She currently lives in the John’s Creek area with her husband and four children. If you don't see her in a carpool line or at a kid's sports field, she's most likely at home writing or in her virtual classroom where she teaches middle school students in language arts. Tracie writes about food, family, and faith on her personal blog, and you can read more at