If you had the chance to do middle school all over again would you do it differently? I'm pretty sure I would. Not that I would choose to do middle school again, but if I had to, I think I would do things just a little differently.
Recently, and at Julie's recommendation, Claire and I read a book called "Wonder" written by R. J. Palacio. It's one of the best pre-teen books I've read ~ ever ~ hands down and without a doubt. Claire loved the book so much that she tried so hard to stretch it out. She didn't want to finish it. She wanted to savor every, single page of the book.
For me, reading it as a mom, it was a little different than it was for Claire reading it as a middle schooler. The book's main character is August Pullman, was born with a facial deformity and had not been able to attend mainstream school until the beginning of his fifth grade year...the beginning of the middle school years for him and his peers. Now, most of you know how much I truly hate middle school so, for me, this book reinforced all of the reasons I truly detest the middle school years. Bullying, shunning, cliques...you name the adversity and it was there in the book for all of the world to see. And it was all directed at August Pullman because of his facial deformity. As a mom, the thought of my child being put in that situation brought tears to my eyes over and over and over again.
But there was so much more to the book than the negativity I associate with middle school. And I do mean so much more. It was a beautifully crafted book with deep rich characters ~ people you would love to meet and be friends with.
One of my favorite characters is Mr. Browne, their English teacher. Mr. Browne called his class to order on the first day, explaining what they were going to learn during the year. He gave them the lay of the land and went on to give them their first assignment.
"Rules about really important things" is how he defined the word precept. The kids took it one step further, asking if it could be like a motto. Mr. Browne's answer was "Yes, like a motto." He went on to say "Basically, a precept is anything that helps guide us when making decisions about really important things." Mr. Browne told his class that at the beginning of each month he would give the kids a new precept, they would discuss it, learning what it means and at the end of each month they would have to write an essay on the precept. Mr. Browne's first precept...
"When given the choice between being right and being kind...choose kind."
I wonder how many of us could choose to be kind rather than right. I know I can fight to the finish when I truly believe I am right. I don't always choose kind. And I have to wonder how different our world would be if we all chose to be kind sometimes, over being right. I know my house is a lot happier when I choose kind.
As for going back to middle school ~ well, we all know that can't happen but if it did I wish that "choosing kind" was etched on the walls...a reminder to us all that battles, both visible and invisible, rage inside of everyone. Choosing kind is a small way to help ease some of those battles for others.
Moving forward in life, I hope I can remember this precept a little more often than not. I hope I can help my children learn to choose kind over being right sometimes. I think Claire learned this lesson well. She read the book, she understands this precept and how it affected Auggie Pullman.
Choose kind...for the love of our children....