Wonder by R.J. Palacio made me want to be the kind of person who could and would welcome someone like 10-year-old Auggie Pullman and put him at ease. His sister, Via, does that. His sister’s friend Miranda does that—Miranda even gave Auggie an astronaut's helmet to wear when he was small, which he wore in public all the time to hide his disfigured face. His new friends Summer and Jack are able to put him at ease, too, and we hear from them all.
Palacio helps us remember that there’s more to every situation than we can see or know. Even Auggie learns this about his classmates Summer and Jack. We know so little about someone else’s life or circumstances. It takes time and trust to get to know someone else well. I think of Georgia O’Keeffe’s quote: “Nobody sees a flower really; it is so small. We haven't time, and to see takes time—like to have a friend takes time.” In Auggie’s case, his looks are all people see initially. And it takes time for them to see past that to the person inside.
My father always told my brother and me that if you could count on one hand the number of true friends in your lifetime, you are lucky. When he first told me that, it was during the cruel era of junior high, and I thought his words were harsh. Now I know them to be true. Friendships go through tests—one friend becomes more popular than another; one gets a boyfriend or girlfriend and the other doesn’t; one makes a new friend and the other feels left out. All of that happens to Auggie, or the people close to him, in Wonder. The solution lies in being able to talk about what’s going on. That’s what Auggie and everyone around him learns. Eventually.
If Wonder models anything, it’s the importance of confronting situations and problems as they arise, and then figuring out if and how they may be resolved. And not going it alone. Talking to one other person about an issue plays a role in resolving each situation that arises in Wonder.
With time, more will be revealed, whether it’s more of the story or the way to address an issue. With a friend you trust, you can wait it out.