A real estate company that I worked with a number of years ago selected the Pinellas Association for Retarded Children, now known as PARC, to serve as our annual community project recipient. Seven times a year, on Thanksgiving, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, The 4th of July, Halloween and for one general Birthday Celebration, we went to the headquarters of PARC to host a party for the 20 or so children who lived there all the time. Those special days with the children, who ranged in age from about 6 – 12 chronologically, but were not yet fully matured mentally and emotionally, were real highlights for us in the middle chasing of our busy careers.
One year, their Director called us and asked if we would consider doing “one more thing” to provide a really special experience for the children. The agency wanted to take part in the Children’s Gasparilla Parade, held each year in downtown St. Petersburg, FL. They had a flat bed truck, which they planned to cover in plants from their plant nursery. They had a eight-foot tall Paper Mache Spider Man that had been donated to them to serve as a mascot, and they had a dozen kids that were old enough to ride on the float wearing “under-roos”, a brand of underwear for children made by Fruit of the Loom, that were designed to look like super hero costumes.
What they needed were some adult volunteers, one for each child, who would also dress like super heroes and ride on the float with the children because, as the Director explained to me, in their simple enthusiasm for life, they would be likely to walk right off the flat bed truck if tempted by something on the ground
We agreed and on the day of the parade, we arrived at the float, some dressed as traditional super heroes and some as super heroes of our own creation. A 6’3” incredible hulk – painted green and bursting out of torn clothing, was particularly impressive. We were then each introduced to our small charges.
My little girl and I were both dressed as Wonder Woman. Yup – complete with long black wig, gold head band, red boots, blue hot pants, skimpy red tee and a lariat. I looked – interesting.
The adults hunkered down among the plants, letting the children be the stars of the show and they had a great time moving down the street lined with hundreds of people, dancing and singing along with the Bat Man theme which poured out from a loud speaker on the front of the float.
And then we passed a troop of cub scouts sitting on the curb who were specifically interested in Wonder Woman. And just as predicted, she squealed at them excitedly and raced to the side of the truck. To keep her from going over the edge, I loomed up out of the underbrush to grab her and the cub scouts simply gasped – then yelled at the top of their lungs, ‘THERE’S THE REAL WONDER WOMAN!”
Needless to say, “Wonder Woman” became my “handle” in the Real Estate Community and it took me years to live the incident down. But in retrospect, I’ve have to ask myself, when I appeared before them so unexpectedly, did those children see only the fictional super-heroine I represented – or did they, in the infinite wisdom of children, see more WONDER in me than I saw in myself?
Modern mystic Pablo Casals suggests that maybe they may have viewed me with the purity through which they also viewed themselves – before we adults knocked the concept of personal wonder out of them:
:”Each second we live in a new and unique moment of the Universe, a moment that never was before and never will be again. And what do we teach our children in schools? We teach them that two and two make four and that Paris is the capital of France. When will we also teach them what they are? When will we say ‘You are a marvel. You are unique. In the entire world there is no other child exactly like you. In the millions of years that have passed there has never been another child like you. And look at your body – what a wonder it is. Your legs, your arms, your cunning fingers and the way you move. You may be a Shakespeare, a Michelangelo and a Beethoven. You have the capacity for anything. Yes, you are a marvel. And when you grow up, can you then harm another who is like you, a marvel? You must cherish one another. You must work – we must all work – to make the world worthy of its children.’ ”
Do you see the wonder in the children you know? Do you see it in your best friend? Do you see it in those you love the most? Can you see it in the ones you like the least?
The next time you look in the mirror just listen, and see if you can hear yourself say, “Oh Look! THERE’S THE REAL WONDER WOMAN”!
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