“I wish every day could be Halloween. We could all wear masks all the time. Then we could walk around and get to know each other before we got to see what we looked like under the masks.”
― R.J. Palacio, Wonder
Despite all the feasting I did over Christmas, I dragged myself out of the house to see a movie last night. The reviews on Wonder made me curious. Wonder was my choice. My favorite movies are the ones that carry a message, usually well enough for me to write about. There were so many interesting quotes in Wonder that it fit the task. I found myself thinking about how we function in our daily social lives and my mind started buzzing.
Every day we interact with people. Some of them we know quite well, others we are meeting for the first time, and some we will briefly interact with and never see again. Our lives are all so busy! We interact, largely within our own little world, making it easy to communicate and feel understood by the people we surround ourselves with.
But stretch your mind a bit for me. Even the people we know well—such as our family and good friends—are unique in their own ways. Each individual has his or her own little world, and an inner life that may be hidden from the rest of us. How we look at our family members, neighbors, book club friends, and coffee-date pals is really a product of our own minds and thoughts. Maybe the image we have of these folks is not the full picture. Those “meaningful conversations” that tell us who our loved ones are, might simply be generalizations created to avoid rocking the boat or creating a high wind that might tear our social webs into tatters.
Then here comes the New Year, that time of year where many of us look at ourselves and decide it’s time to make some changes. We create a list of resolutions for the next year. Our intentions are good, but New Year’s resolutions often fail because we set unattainable goals. We tell ourselves, “I will lose 50 pounds this year,” “I will go the gym three times a week,” or “I will praise my spouse once a day and give hugs five times a week.” Sound familiar? Statistics show that our desire to change starts off with a bang and slowly fizzles out. By early February, the resolve to seek a better life is almost non-existent.
Please do not think all New Year resolutions end that quickly. I am sure there are those people with lots of discipline that keeps them going. If you have a support group, your chances of sticking to a vow like this go up dramatically. People who are trying to give up self-destructive habits such as addiction can often maintain their abstinence for the rest of their lives with support. Kudos to them and to people whose goals are small enough to be manageable. Any positive change is important.
So I present one New Year resolution that can easily be kept, at least for a good while and maybe even forever. Get to really know people for who they are and not just for the surface, that is easy to see. Try harder to look beyond what you have always assumed about them. Suspend your expectations or past judgments and be open to discovering a new level of understanding about them. Use your time together to look a bit closer, but not in an intrusive way. Soften your curiosity with kindness and compassion. Because what we cannot bear to see in other people, we also cannot bear to know about ourselves.
“Courage. Kindness. Friendship. Character. These are the qualities that define us as human beings, and propel us, on occasion, to greatness.”
― R.J. Palacio, Wonder
Seek to discover and understand the hidden qualities that people have. Spend time learning about how they see the world. You may even find a deeper connection and strengthen the bond you already have. You may even uncover something you never knew. What you do with your time exceeds anything money can buy. I have heard that you can’t judge a book by its cover. You have to go inside and get the message.
When 2018 rolls in, start using your time to begin looking at people you really want to see. On January 1st, make this goal a priority.