Since its release in November, Wonder has turned my social-media timeline into a Kleenex-filled feed: “Best movie ever, totally an ugly cry!” “Choose Kind everyone! #Choosekind” “Go see Wonder, ALL. THE. FEELS.” Moviegoers have been deeply moved by the story of Auggie Pullman (Jacob Tremblay), a fifth grader born with a rare condition, Treacher Collins syndrome, which affects the development of facial bones.
Armed with a pocket full of tissue and flanked by my pre-teen daughter and her friend, I flopped down to take in this movie in a theater filled with children and parents. True to the social-media posts, I was crying within the first 15 minutes.
Based on the bestselling children’s book by R.J. Palacio and directed by Stephen Chbosky, the drama stars Julia Roberts and Owen Wilson as Auggie’s parents. Viewers join Auggie’s story as he enters middle school bearing the marks of multiple surgeries and the severe facial deformities that can come with Treacher Collins syndrome.
Part of the allure of Wonder, as those social-media posts note, comes from its very real connection to a cause we can all believe in: “Choosing kind.” Wonder offers a reminder that we are all at the mercy of one another. Dark, pain-filled, lonely, and unpredictable corners exist in each of our lives. When we are backed into one of those corners, the simple kindness of another person can pull us out into the light.
Despite the tear-soaked warnings, the movie itself is filled with great joy and hope. Emotion rises up as Auggie’s story picks at the scabs and scars we all carry. Everyone can identify with the pain of feeling mocked, isolated, and belittled. Parents relive their childhood traumas as they weep for those they know haunt their own children. Kids weep because they face this pain daily and are still tender enough to empathize with Auggie. In the end, we are encouraged with this advice: be kind.
Wonder offers a reminder that we are all at the mercy of one another.
For me, the most poignant moment in the film was when Auggie’s mother (played by a convincingly disheveled Roberts) watches her son walk into his very first day of school. Tears stream down her face as she watches the back of her son’s head enter the maelstrom that is middle school. She winces and whispers, “Oh please God, let them be nice to him.”
This. This is the basic desire we all carry. Please, God, just let’s be kind to one another. This desire makes us ache. Wonder is not a religious film, but this prayer captures such a deep need that we all have. Please, oh please, God, let us be kind.
Kindness is a cause we can all get behind. Kindness opens us up to the stories, to the pain, and the experience of others. Kindness sees beyond the surface to the very soul of another and in that moment sees value, meaning, and purpose. It honors Paul’s note to the Corinthian church, “Don’t you know that you yourselves are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in your midst?” Kindness looks at another person the way God looks at us: with the compassion of Jesus and with empathy and purpose all rolled up into an act of redemption and grace. Kindness recognizes the God-created beauty of another person, the beauty that was there from the very beginning, and it seeks the flourishing and well-being of each of us.
If “choosing kindness” is the mantra of Wonder, it is also a recognition of the testament of Psalm 139: “You knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” Each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made, whether the world chooses to acknowledge our wonder or not. We are glorious, marvelous works of the Creator God. We are known full-well by that God and we are beloved. Regardless of the size, color, or shape of the packaging, regardless of how we come into this world and what form we take as we pass through it, there is a Creator God who is desperate for each of us to experience kindness. Choose kind. Go see Wonder.