Our Friend Shares With Us {Book Club}

Today we finish Wonder by R. J. Palacio (free PDF version). But the question is, do we really every finish a book like this? Good new news, thanks to Kiera for sharing that another chapter was written from Julian’s perspective.

The section today covers parts 6, 7, and 8. Or August, Miranda, and August. Much of this section was around the play that Justin, Via, and Miranda were in. Oh the tension that poor Via felt with having to chose between keeping her special place (school) or share it with, let’s be honest, Auggie and the uniqueness of his face. And then in the midst of it all, Daisy’s death!

If you had a pet as a child, you probably can relate to how large and significant the death of your dear pet. I just ached for them all and how Daisy’s death and the play got intwined.

We also got to hear from Miranda and why she drifted away from Via. Hearing from each character reminds me of how much more is going on for everyone. E.v.e.r.y.o.n.e. Think of the house helper you have. Think of your chid’s classmate. Think of the bus driver. It can be overwhelming if we think about everyone, but it is helpful to every now and then be reminded we probably only know a fraction of what is going on.

In Auggie’s last section three things stood out to me:

  • How symbolic his hearing aids were — don’t we all, at times, resist that which is best for us? And then how freeing it was and how wonderful “hearing” really is?
  • I loved reading about the boys rallying around Auggie and Jack and through the crisis of being chased, being pulled them together! Again, sounds like our lives overseas, right?
  • Auggie’s dad’s kind words when he explained why he got rid of his helmet: “And the real, real, real, real truth is: I missed seeing your face, Auggie. I know you don’t always love it, but you have to understand . . . love it. I love this face of your, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it.”

Let’s talk more about these themes in the comments. But we have such a treat today! Our very own Julie B. wrote me last month after she started Wonder sharing a bit of her story. I asked her if she would be willing to share with us. She checked with her son, Jonathan, and then offered these thoughts to us.

Thank you Julie!

///

I am privileged to be the mother of a son born with a facial difference. Our second child, Jonathan, was born three months before we were to move overseas. At birth, he looked “different,” but the doctors could not come up with a definitive diagnosis. So off to Taiwan we went!

Jonathan had large Sylvester Stalone-like eyes and an exceptionally small jaw. Our Chinese friends loved his big, beautiful blue (somewhat protruding) eyes and could not resist touching the cheeks of this cute little blonde American boy. (At one point he had ring worm on his cheek for all of the love pats he received!) The positive reactions Jonathan received during his first two years of life, helped to cultivate in him a wonderful sense of self- esteem and confidence. He was too young to realize that he looked “different.”

An American pediatrician friend finally suggested a diagnosis of Crouzons Syndrome, which when confirmed at that time, required us to live in America during his years of physical growth in order for him to receive multiple surgeries and specialized care.

The between-surgery years were filled with ordinary adventures in living out life for our family. Jon developed normally, attended public school, played soccer and participated in all those things little boys love to do. Ironically, one day in seeing a man with cerebral palsy having great difficulty walking, it was Jonathan who said in the loudest voice EVER, “Mommy, what’s wrong with that man?” Jon’s question truly was a child’s innocent wonderment in seeing someone who was different, which became a teaching moment for the family.

I read Wonder with a Kleenex in one hand as I re-lived a few of our family’s joys and sorrows through some of the characters in the book. I have shared so many similar thoughts and feelings. We have felt the quick uncomfortable glances, the outright stares, and the cruel comments. We have also encountered some truly kind people. I became proficient at taking “awkwardly-kind” well meaning statements and redirecting them into an educational moment for a child (or his parent).

Throughout this journey with its highs and lows, we have seen God’s faithful provision and have been reminded of God’s sovereign hand on every part of our lives. He has been and continues to be always faithful. He is completely trustworthy. (These lessons are in the continuous tense – I continue to need to be reminded of these truths daily.)

During Jon’s college years, I became the Craniofacial Team Nurse at the Children’s Hospital where I worked. Little did I know, that my experiences as a mom to Jon would be part of God’s preparation for me in the role of coordinating care and assisting families as they advocated for their children with facial differences. God, in his sovereignty has also used all of these experiences in Jon’s life to shape him for his work with students and MK’s in Alaska.

One of my favorite scenes in the book is graduation and Mr. Tushman’s remarks to Auggie’s class. (Don’t you wish you had a teacher like Mr. Tushman?)

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

The message of being a little kinder than necessary is applicable to all of us. Whether we are in an unfamiliar culture with uncomfortable differences or in our home culture, we will encounter people who are different. The elderly lady who fumbles with her wallet in line at the grocery store, the taxi driver with an attitude who is having a bad day, or the team member who requires extra grace. In these circumstances can we act a little kinder than necessary?

Can we confront our own discomfort with differences by choosing kindness as we daily live out the gospel in the place where God has called us?

How have you recently acted kinder than necessary?

A wonderful resource for teaching children (and adults) about differences:

Just the Way I Am: God’s Good Design In Disability by Krista Horning

///

Thank you Julie. I cannot believe how many parallels there are. I’d love to hear more about your process leaving the field and what Jonathan’s up to these days. So many questions and I bet I’m not alone with this desire to know more :).

See you all in the comments,

Amy

P.S. Next week we start with the introduction and chapter 1 of our fall book Consider the Birds: A Provocative Guide to Birds of the Bible by Debbie Blue. Caitlin Lieder, Emily Smith, and I also wrote a Bible Study to go alone with the book — each week you can spend time with scriptures involving the bird of the week. 

30 Comments

  1. Elizabeth September 12, 2016

    I am going to *try* to keep up with “Consider the Birds.” And I’m very interested in the accompanying Bible study. 🙂

    1. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

      Elizabeth! Hi! I’m going to try to keep up with the birds, too! And I haven’t forgotten about Shiloh!

    2. Spring September 13, 2016

      THank you Elizabeth for being forthright! I have struggled this summer to “keep up” with books, I already started Consider the Birds but it’s anybody’s guess if I can keep up 😉 I didn’t finish around the world in 80 days or Right Ho Jeeves even though I was well intentioned when I started.

      1. Amy Young September 16, 2016

        I’ll take that bet 🙂 . . . you will finish this one (since it’s being read over a longer time period. But even if you don’t, no biggie 🙂

    3. Amy Young September 16, 2016

      Hopefully all of you feel welcome to join as it works out for you! :)! My plan is for book club to be here consistently knowing that people all over the world have different holidays, different school years, different down times . . . that way, whenever you can join, it’s here :). AND if you feel any guilt or shame for “not participating” please know that is from the Accuser who can to steal. However, if you feel regret because this is a fun place and book are our friends, well, I’m not one to get in the way of a little regret :).

  2. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    I missed last week’s book club, but am caught up again. I cried my way through the whole last section of this book. There is SO MUCH here, it’s impossible to talk about everything…but I’m going to mention several things – hope y’all don’t mind but I’m going to put each thing in separate posts – instead of one long one….

    1. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

      oh, dear, maybe I won’t break it up like this next time – it looks like I’m talking too much, 🙂 and it might not look like I’m talking too much if I put it all in one comment, but I thought it’d be easier to talk about the different thoughts if I divided them up….yikes….

      1. Amy Young September 16, 2016

        I like it :). Easier to keep thoughts straight!

  3. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    Julie, thank you so much for sharing – I agree with Amy, I would love to hear more about leaving China and about how Jonathan is doing now….

    you said “The positive reactions Jonathan received during his first two years of life, helped to cultivate in him a wonderful sense of self- esteem and confidence.” I was thinking about that, and about how in the book Auggie’s family is so awesome, and am just struck (again) at how the foundation that early love and acceptance lays in our lives – how much it shapes who we are and enables us to face things and overcome things – …what a difference it makes…

    1. Julie B September 14, 2016

      Thanks Michele for commenting. Yes, leaving the field was hard – but at the same time, it was a “no brainer” for us in that it was the right thing to do and we accepted it as part of God’s plan for our family. That experience has been useful for us in relating to others who have had to leave the field for various reasons. Guess in retrospect it was part of God’s prep for us in this role we now have in member care! (Who knew? He did!)

      Jon lives and is in full time ministry in Alaska working with students. He was just telling me on the phone last night how once again due to his experiences with disappointment in the outcome or shall we say complication of surgery (where it had to be repeated in his senior year of high school) – he has been able to help one particular young man just this week to deal with his questions about God and why these things happen. So great to see how God is using him in the lives of many jr and sr high school students.

      1. Michele Womble September 14, 2016

        Isn’t this where we want our kids to be, in a place where God is able to use them in others’ lives? And yet how often I would reject the roads (the suffering) that God takes them through to get them to those places…and not just their roads, but our own roads…thank you for sharing about your family and Jonathan, it encourages me to go deeper still into trusting God with the paths He has for my kids…and with the way my paths change because of their paths…all for His glory.

        1. Julie B September 15, 2016

          Oh yes – our mama bear instincts are to protect our kids at any cost. I had a few conversations with God about this – like you can do what you want to me but please not my kids. He gently reminded me that Jonathan’s name meant “gift of God” – and that I had to open my hand. The learning to trust God part in all the circumstances of life (now for my adult children and my grandchildren) is a continuing process. But as you say Michelle – all for His glory and ultimately for my good. He is a good good Father.

        2. Amy Young September 16, 2016

          “The ways my path changed because of their paths.” Isn’t this the beautiful and hard part of being connected to others :)?!

  4. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    I think it was Kiera who mentioned last week about perspective and how our understanding of what is really going on changes when we hear both sides of the story (there’s always at least 2) …I thought about that when Via told her mom “you’ve been really good about leaving me alone my whole life, so why you choose high school to suddenly be interested I have no idea…” and we don’t get to hear her mother’s perspective, but we know from reading Justin and Miranda’s perspectives, that while Via’s needs do often get overlooked for Auggie’s, both Auggie and Via are really, really loved – and that her parents are more attentive to her than Miranda’s and Justin’s are to them. It would be really interesting to hear Isabella’s perspective about what Via said…did she think “I’m a horrible mom” ? When in reality, she’s not a perfect mom, but she’s an awesome mom. And how often do we think that as parents? or as friends?

  5. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    Did anyone else see a parallel (or am I crazy) between Auggie not being aware that Daisy was sick, and Auggie not being aware that Via was struggling with school? Auggie was aware that Daisy had thrown up before but it didn’t really register with him that something was wrong, just like he had to be aware that Via was more moody and arguing with their parents more – he had heard some of their interactions, but it didn’t register that she was struggling….it was just so interesting that he’s sitting in his bed (his cave) waiting for his mom to come comfort him – about Via – a situation that he” understands” and yet totally doesn’t understand because the real issue hasn’t registered, and what comes in is the issue with Daisy – which also hasn’t registered with him. I’m not sure what i want to say about that except that it seemed significant – that he loves them both but was unaware of their struggles – and I guess it’s a growing up thing, learning to be not so self-focused (we can’t help be somewhat self-focused) that we’re unaware of what’s going on around us in the lives of people we love in spite of the signs…..

    1. Amy Young September 16, 2016

      I did notice it too. Part of me wondered (ha!) how much it was young boy (or girl) cluelessness versus both situations were painful, so an unconscious desire to avoid. With my nieces, sometimes I am shocked at what they pick up (duh, they aren’t stupid) but then other times I am shocked at what they totally missed. Um, the same could be said of me 🙂

  6. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    So Miranda is pretending to have Via’s life, no wonder she has to avoid Via!

    Even Miranda wants to be in their family…”One of the things I miss the most about Via’s friendship is her family. I loved her mom and dad. They were always so welcoming and nice to me. I knew they loved their kids more than anything. I always felt safe around them: safer than anywhere else in the world.”

    Oh – to be parents like this, friends like this, PEOPLE like this! A place where others know they are loved, where others know they are safe. Ella was an “easy” friend because she didn’t ask questions – but Via and her family – in spite of the hard things in their lives (or maybe because of them) – they are the real thing.

  7. Michele Womble September 12, 2016

    Amy, I loved Auggie’s dad’s words to him, too. I can just see God saying that to us when He has thrown away some prop of ours, something that we really cherished because it…hid us. And how HE might say to us, “Oh, THAT? I threw it away. I HATED that thing, because I hated how you hid behind it and I know you don’t always like it, but I love this face of yours…I want to see YOU….”

    1. Julie B September 14, 2016

      Such great words and so much to reflect on how our Father treats us and the masks we attempt to wear to cover up. Love it!

  8. Spring September 13, 2016

    I love the ending especially the part about his dad throwing away the helmet! Of course it is important to note how much his dad believed in him and wanted to show the world his son even if the world is sometimes unkind. . I struggle with not wanting my children to experience that kind of pain.

    Thank you to Julie for sharing from their families personal story! What a cool thing to see God to have used it in so many ways. And thanks for being honest about the awkward comments that you had to “help” with. I am sure I have sometimes said wrong comments. I still struggle as to what the kind thing is to do. Ignoring seems mean, yet I imagine people get tired of answering the same question over and over

    1. Julie B September 14, 2016

      Oh yes – the awkward comments – I have been both the giver and receiver of them! Just yesterday our airport driver observed me taking my morning medications. He asked about them and I said they were for my high blood pressure (one of the after affects of complications of pregnancy). He said – “Oh you must need them because you are so fat!” Can you say awkward? (Just gotta love China!)

      Spring, I never get tired of answering honest questions of people who are interested in my kids or my family. Even though we may answer the same questions over again – it is a joy to share with someone who shows honest interest and caring. I think all of us who live overseas experience this when people ask about our lives overseas. We love to answer those questions for those who truly care and want to know more! And we have also experienced our disappointment in those who we thought would be interested in our overseas experience and yet they don’t ask us.

      1. Michele Womble September 14, 2016

        Thank you, Julie, for comparing it to people asking questions of our lives overseas – in that light, although perhaps not everyone feels the way you do, I would rather err on the side of showing honest interest and caring than ignoring an obvious significant part of someone’s life. I’ve wondered about that, too, “to ask or not to ask” – and this is really helpful. (Do you think it’s better to say, “do you mind if I ask…” or “I’d like to know/understand more but I understand if you don’t want to talk about it” – or better to just dive right in?)

        1. Julie B September 15, 2016

          A couple of thoughts on asking questions: If it is a child with a parent just be sensitive to the age of the child when asking within his/her hearing. Try and make eye contact or give a friendly smile to the mom or the child first and see if they are receptive. You know – kind of general cues for initiating a conversation. If I were in line at the grocery store for instance I usually make eye contact first with the mother and talk about general things – “oh it’s sure hot today” or “you sure have cute kids.” From a few general comments I can tell if the parent or the person is going to be receptive to talking with me. I guess this is just one of those things where you have to be sensitive to timing. Sometimes the most kind and appropriate thing is to just make eye contact and smile..

          I do remember with Jon being in the grocery store – and the looks of pity I saw on people’s faces thinking that based on his appearance, Jon was developmentally delayed (which he was not).. However, the attitudes of people toward us significantly changed after a major surgery at the age of 5 when his face had a more “normal” appearance. His face was very bruised and he had a baseball cap on and people were asking if he had been in an accident. I remember being a little perturbed thinking that if he was in an accident it was OK to talk about it but if he just looked different or was developmentally delayed I received the looks of pity.

  9. Kiera September 14, 2016

    Mr. Tushman’s phrase, “kinder than necessary” reminds me of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount (and elsewhere). I can think of a couple of times recently when I have felt God asking me to go beyond what is necessary. As in, I have already done what any normal, rational person would expect me to do in a given situation and yet God nudges me, implants this idea in my mind that I can’t shake, that is crazy really and truly more than anyone else would expect me to do. But it’s the kind of thing that I recognize fits perfectly within God’s character. For example, don’t just let an offense go in my mind, but actually take a step towards the person who has hurt me. It’s only because I recognize Jesus in it that I am willing to do such crazy stuff. 🙂

    It makes me think too of the difference between Charlotte and Summer. I would be interested to read the Charlotte chapter that Ruth mentioned in last week’s comments. It seems from reading Wonder that Charlotte is pretty nice. I mean, she talks to Auggie, she never says anything mean, she doesn’t avoid him, and she even helps Jack in the boys’ “war.” But by comparison, Summer goes far beyond and is much kinder than necessary.

    Also, I totally cried at the death of Daisy and I am really not a dog or a pet person, so that is saying something. I like the parallel that Michelle drew about Auggie being blind to both Daisy’s illness and Via’s struggles. When he was in his room, in his cave, waiting for his mom to come in, wasn’t he being such a 10-year old boy?! Very absorbed in his own world. I like that although Auggie certainly has a lot to deal with, he also has some maturing and growing up to do to realize that the world doesn’t revolve around him.

    Ok, I have debated back and forth whether to post this comment or not, but: Did anyone else question Mr. Tushman giving Auggie that award? This question has been on my mind lately having heard Jen Bricker on Jacque Watkins’ Mud Stories podcast and I feel like I’ve heard this sentiment from others with disabilities before: people say, “you are so inspiring,” and the person says, “I’m just being a normal person.” Is it like being complimented for being white, in which I have had no say in whatsoever?

    1. Julie B September 14, 2016

      Thanks Kiera for that great question. I too have struggled with that question. I understand and totally get the dilemma of acknowledging a person who has overcome great obstacles which to them, is their “normal”.life experience. I also have thought about the delicate season of the middle school years and self esteem issues. Our son, received an award in middle school in being chosen as “student of the year” for his grade level.. At that age and time in his life it sure gave him more self confidence. (“Normal” students in other grade levels were also honored so it wasn’t about being “different”.)
      It seems that Auggie’s reaction to receiving the award and the standing ovation was a great boost to his self confidence. I loved the comment he made that everyone should receive a standing ovation at least once in their lifetime. We have all been created with that need for significance. How we attempt to fill that need is one of the big questions of life. It made me think that perhaps the greatest “standing ovation” we ever get as believers, will be hearing the words, “Well done, good and faithful servant.”

    2. Michele Womble September 14, 2016

      Kiera, I loved the “kinder than necessary” quote, too. I didn’t think about that being the difference between Charlotte and Summer, though, but you are exactly right. Charlotte was kind – sort of kind WHEN necessary – but Summer was kinder than necessary – always. Except when Charlotte helps Jack in the “war”, then she is being “kinder than necessary,” I think, because she could have just refrained from getting involved at all. But then – I guess that wouldn’t have been kind, just not unkind. Anyway, I like how you noticed that difference between the two girls.

      And YES! Auggie WAS being such a normal ten year old boy when he was in his room, in his cave, waiting for his mom to come and “cater” to him! “Very absorbed in his own world”…and I really liked that, too, that, like you said, even though he does have these major issues in his life, it’s still important for him to know that the world doesn’t revolve around him – just like it’s important for ALL of us to know – for the sake of our relationships with our families and others around us – I’m glad she put that part of his growth in the book.

      1. Michele Womble September 14, 2016

        I also liked your thought about being kinder than necessary, to not just let an offense go in your mind, but to take a step toward the one who offended you…

    3. Amy Young September 16, 2016

      This thread gives me plenty to munch on . . . thank you all for your thoughtful comments 🙂

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