For some reason I’m in a bit of a reflective mood at the moment, thinking about my lot and being thankful for what I’ve got, and indeed what I’ve had, in my life.  There may be more posts in the same vein in the coming days, but first I want to write about someone special.

My uncle Stuart has Down’s Syndrome.

I was going to say he suffered from it, but to be honest I don’t think he does.  Of course, there are things he can’t do which other people can, but he is not as badly affected as others so is able to live a relatively normal life.

Despite the fact he is not too badly off, had the doctors offered my Granny and Granda a choice prior to him being born, of whether they wanted a fully able-bodied and able-minded child or one which would be classed as handicapped then I’ve no doubts about which they would choose.  Most, if not all, people would have made the same choice.

But of course that choice was not presented, and I for one am incredibly grateful.

Being a nephew, I know that I’ve not seen all of the hard work that went into bringing him up and getting him to where he is today - it must have been an incredible burden at times.

We as people are most often scared of what we don’t know.  There’s a noise at night when it’s dark and you are in bed - what is it?  Is it a burglar?  Chances are it’s the sound of something you hear a hundred times during the day but at night when you can’t see anything, any sound takes on a sinister tone.

Similarly, people who think unfairly about other people - those of a different race, or sexuality for example - often take that viewpoint because they don’t actually know anyone like that.  I try my hardest to take an even-minded view on these things, despite not knowing anyone who is gay, coloured or indeed both!

It is a small step to go from a view like this about these people to feeling the same, or worse, about those who are handicapped in some way either physically or mentally.  Haven’t they been dealt a bad enough hand in life without having to deal with small-minded idiots?

Uncle Stuart’s time at school probably wasn’t the best time of his life because of this, but the man I know today is probably the most liked and best-known person I’ve ever met.

Had he not been born with Down’s Syndrome, I can’t honestly say how I would react when around handicapped people - I would like to think I would treat them as fairly as I treat anyone, but I can’t say that for certain.  Having Uncle Stuart as he is though has meant I can see past the disability in others and realise that what is there is really just another human being with the same feelings and emotions as the rest of us.

Because he leads a relatively normal life, it can be easy to forget that he is disabled at all.  By not bearing this in mind, it can be frustrating from time to time if he doesn’t do something you expected him to do - which is unfair as it’s something outwith his control in many ways.  He has never really been treated any different because of his disability and he wouldn’t really want it any other way, but it does have to be at the back of your mind that he is different.

Family is important, and I’m extremely grateful that I have a large extended family.  I find it quite amazing that despite the numbers a very low percentage have any disability at all, which makes Uncle Stuart so much more unique and special.  Were it not for him, who knows how I, and other family members, would feel about people like him - would we be as narrow-minded as others are?

Some people no doubt think that having someone like Uncle Stuart in our family would make our lives poorer as a result.  I can only speak for myself, but I think my life has been enriched beyond measure by his inclusion within it.

There are certain things which happen in your life which are easily identifiable and simple to measure.  If someone gave you £100 for example it is easy to say by how much that gesture made you better off.  But for me, the things which make you a better person as a result are harder to identify and much harder to measure.  Because I feel having someone like Uncle Stuart in my life has made me much more understanding, accepting, tolerant and most importantly respecting of other people no matter how they may appear, what he has brought to me is not quantifiable.

You only live one life so it’s incredibly difficult to say for certain whether one course of action really is better than another - once you have taken one, you can’t always then take the other to see what the difference is.

One thing I am sure of is a life without my Uncle Stuart wouldn’t have been as rewarding as the one with him, and no matter how often I was presented with the choice of with or without him, not once would I be without.