The Universe works in “wondrous” ways to speak to us. About two weeks ago at a friend’s baby shower I learned about an inspiring principal, who is teaching her students compassion at a local elementary school. The principal is personally reading and discussing the beautiful book “We’re All Wonders” to every single classroom on her campus. The book is a kid-friendly version of R.J. Palacio’s best-seller “Wonder,” which is a heartwarming story about a young boy, Auggie, with facial deformities who is bullied at school, but later realizes that he is a wonder and that each of us are wonders in our own way. What I love about the principal’s efforts in reading this book is that she is not only engaging all kids in an important discussion on diversity, inclusion and kindness, but by leading this effort for every classroom, she sets a positive tone for her entire school to follow.
Upon learning of this story, I decided to get Palacio’s children’s book and bring it with us on vacation to Hawaii. On our trip, I read the story to my girls and we talked briefly about the book. Afterwards I was thinking about a fun hands-on kindness activity we could do to help focus on the book’s wonderful message. But being on vacation mode (which is a kindness project in and of itself), I didn’t progress much past thinking.
Then something remarkable happened on our last night at dinner in Maui. We were eating dinner in typical-Hawaiian-vacation-fashion, eating seafood, watching a spectacular sunset, listening to some live musicians play their ukuleles. After playing a few songs, the musicians warmly introduced a new singer, Madison, up to the stage. She was escorted up by an older gentleman. We quickly realized that Madison is blind. She sat down with a huge smile and then began captivating us all with her extraordinary voice. She sang beautiful Hawaiian songs, singing from her heart, moving some of us including myself to tears.
While Madison sang, my girls were completely mesmerized and stood up in front of our dining table to watch her perform. Afterwards my older daughter started asking some questions:
- “Are we going to become blind?” – This isn’t the most comfortable question to answer as a parent. But I gave it my best shot. I told her that it was unlikely that we would become blind but sometimes unforeseen things do happen in life. I told her that our family members could all see right now, so we did not need to worry about what “could” happen and that we should feel grateful for our eyesight, which we don’t usually stop to think about.
- “What can Madison see? Has she ever been able to see?” – At this moment the magic of Palacio’s book effortlessly unveiled itself. I told her that Madison, like Auggie in the book we had just read, had intellectual and developmental disabilities (IDDs). While some things were harder for Madison, she was a “wonder” just like Auggie. Madison had a gift of singing, an angelic voice, that she could share with the world.
- I then asked my daughter “What gifts do you have? What are your wonders?” She replied that she loved to dance and that she was a good artist. 🙂
- Her next question…“Are there really kids like Auggie who only have one-eye?” My response was similar to the one I gave her earlier about Madison’s eyesight. But I realized then that she had grasped the powerful message that Palacio shares in her book.
After our discussion, I asked my girls if they wanted to meet Madison. They both seemed shy at first, but our whole family walked up and we introduced ourselves to Madison and her family. We thanked Madison for sharing her gift with us on our last night in Hawaii. We found out she doesn’t live far from us in California and that she fell in love with Hawaiian music and self-taught in the Hawaiian language and music. She even has her own YouTube channel under the name, Madison Makanaokahaku Scott.
My favorite Weekly Kindness Projects are the ones that happen organically, almost serendipitously- the ones where the projects fall into our laps without even having to try. It truly feels in those moments that the Universe wants us to listen, to hear its calling. I know there is so much more we can all do to teach our littles about diversity and inclusion. There’s so much more I can do at home with my own girls, so much more we can do as a community, to engage our children about our differences, to teach our kids to love the “wonder” that lives in each and everyone of us. So Universe…I heed your call about tolerance, acceptance, inclusion. We are just getting started to begin our work. 🙂
#WeeklyKindnessProject #ChooseKind #DiversityandInclusion