I first read Wonder shortly after it was published.
Quick note: If you're not familiar with the book or movie, go read/watch. It's the fictional story of August Pullman, a fifth grade boy with Treacher Collins Syndrome, which causes him to have very obvious facial differences. In the story, he starts middle school, which is his first foray into school after a lifetime of being homeschooled. The story is told from the perspectives of various people in Auggie's life - his sister and new classmates, as well as Auggie himself. Now go get the book. Seriously.
Not surprisingly, as the parent of a child with a visible disability, Auggie's story stood out to me. Watching the movie several years later, now as the parent to a child with a disability and a typically developing child, Via caught my attention more than she had previously. The summer before the movie came out, I took a picture of Ellie in an astronaut helmet at the Children's Museum of Naples. I thought of Auggie and his helmet. A few months later, after seeing the movie, this idea was born. Photos of kids with and without disabilities, some with visible disabilities and some not, wearing a helmet and with their own beautiful faces showing. Although these portraits were gifts to the families, they were really a gift to me.
“You were wearing that helmet all the time. 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 … I love it. I love this face of yours, Auggie, completely and passionately. And it kind of broke my heart that you were always covering it up.” - Auggie's dad, Wonder by R.J. Palacio
Included in this collage is my daughter's first friend, the first child who loved her for her without parental involvement. He has been her person and her rock more than he will ever know. The fact that he is not verbal has never mattered to her. He makes her feel loved.
Included in this collage are kids who have given me perspective for my youngest, as she grows up with a big sister with a disability. She may have a slightly different sibling experience than some of her friends, but I know having Ellie as a sister will make her life better.
Pictured here are kids whose disabilities are visible. There are kids whose disabilities are invisible. There are siblings who have sat through therapy sessions. There are kids who, like the fictional Auggie Pullman, are well acquainted with doctor's offices and surgical procedures. And like Auggie, they all deserve a standing ovation - we all do, we have all overcometh the world.
“If every 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, somewhere, someday, may recognize in you, in every single one of you, the face of God.”
― R.J. Palacio, Wonder