“When given the choice between being right and being kind, choose kind”
Movie theaters in Hong Kong are an experience; you can order from the usual selection of popcorn, add on an adult beverage if you’d like, and enjoy a pre-selected leather lined seat with plenty of leg room and space for a bag. It’s clean, comfortable, and spacious, and it will be hard to go back to sticky floors and scratchy seat cushions. We went to see Wonder at Pacific Place, a familiar stop for us given the proximity to Jack’s work and one of our favorites, the JW Marriott, where I highly recommend Bar 88 and Fish Bar & Pool Lounge.
Wonder is a book and (now) movie for everyone. My two recommendations: waterproof mascara and plenty of tissues. It was the first time bringing the boys to a movie where they had previously read the book, and though this one was done pretty well, I loved watching them remember parts of the book that weren’t included in the movie, the realization that the book is always better, and reliving the story from a different angle. For us, this particular story added a second round of really good conversation and insightful perspective from our kids, particularly because they were the new kids this year. And while they don’t have a visible physical deformity like Auggie, they can empathize with him on a small scale what it feels like to need kindness from others and to guard yourself against anyone or anything that may feel unfamiliar. At one point during the movie, John remarked “it’s so hard being the new kid”, a statement I hadn’t heard him make before. While at first I was nervous, I recognized that he empathized with Auggie on his first day of school and the struggle that he was going through as he entered the building all on his own. It is hard to be the new kid, for all kinds of reasons. And if you’re lucky enough, eventually you wiggle your way into a group of friends, carry on your love for science, and remember the kindness that others showed to you so that you can give it to the next new kid. We all need to pay more attention to the kids who have a harder time making friends and feeling connected to a community. My kids now know what it feels like to walk into a new place, vulnerable and exposed, but they are fortunate to be in a school that fosters kindness; it’s not the case in all schools and for all kids. They also know, just as Auggie knows, his mountain is much steeper, much rougher, and one that not everyone will have to trek because of the way he looks, a hard and cruel reality; one that needs more conversation and attention for our young ones. I loved the end of the movie when the “bullies” save the day against the seventh graders and how Chris thought that it was such a victory for Auggie and all the little guys. It was. And even though fighting is generally discouraged, it was a kind gesture towards Auggie. It matters when the good guys win.
Watching everything unfold on the big screen brought out all kinds of emotions for me as a mother, a school counselor, and someone who has worked with kids with various disabilities and tough circumstances. In my opinion, the movie does a great job setting the stage for perspective taking, empathy, and inclusion. It also brought up the relevant topics about educational choice and meeting the needs of all kids. We’ve been fortunate enough that our transition to Hong Kong has been relatively seamless and that the school we chose for our boys mirrors their previous education and upholds values that we share as a family. As a mother, I recognize that is a little bit of luck and a lot of privilege. Not all kids get to choose their school, and not all schools are able to meet the needs of all kids equally. This is an important conversation about how education differs in all parts of the world. While some people have choices, others have limited choices that perpetuate stigma, marginalization, and inequality of wealth and opportunity.
The ultimate message is one of kindness, something that we have been fortunate to experience firsthand when we needed it most. The kindness that others have shown to us has been invaluable during the last couple of months of moving and getting settled. This weekend, we will say our first goodbye to an expat family who is finishing up their stay here and moving back to the U.S., something that happens often in Hong Kong. We will miss them, but we will remember how they reached out to us when we were the new family on the block and be sure to do that for the next new family.