Take my good friend Shaun. He lives in a house with a friend, works on a farm, plays drums, enjoys a night out at a club, is mad about Leicester Tigers, occasionally enjoys his beer just a bit too much & has a similar whacky sense-of-humour to myself!
Shaun is someone you meet once & don’t forget. He is someone who loves to achieve, against the odds & someone who is content with himself. Laughter is never far away.
Shaun was born with severe cerebral palsy which has affected just about every part of his body. He struggles to walk, frequently has arguments with the floor as he puts it, has very few fine motor skills & probably has as much metal in his body from surgery as the late Barry Sheene!
Yet he is happy & he doesn’t know how to stop trying.
I don’t speak to him very much about his disability because the subject never seems to arise & I often forget how severely disabled he is. Why? Because to Shaun it isn’t an issue. He has grown up with it & adapted to it. Shaun is an inspiration.
His motto seems to be, “If I don’t try I’ll never know!”
He has a great bunch of friends around him. The thing is that they want to be with him.
Shaun has many ideas up his sleeve on how he can raise money for things like The Matt Hampson Foundation. His current brainwave includes an awful lot of cycling & knowing Shaun, he will do it!
Shaun loves to live out his faith. He has seen many amazing things happen & helped so many. Yet, when asked about whether he would like to be healed & able-bodied like most of us his response was quite astonishing: “No! I don’t want to be any different to how I am because I want people to look at me & realise that no matter how bad things may seem, it is possible to live a full & fulfilled life.”
I don’t know many who would make that immediate response. I’m not sure I could.
But there, I think is the crux of the issue. I see from an able-bodied perspective & so quickly see what I would miss that I do now. I take a lot of my activities & abilities for granted until I meet people like Shaun who cause me to ask a whole lot of questions about myself & my attitude.
One of those questions is, “Who puts the Dis in Disability?”I’m not talking about being unrealistic as to what people can or cannot do & I’m not being patronising or overlooking very real needs. However, I am challenged to think how often I automatically discount people with some sort of disability before I’ve given them chance. Very often it’s me who sees the inability or problem, rather than the person themselves.
As the photos on this page show, Shaun considers life to be lived & lived to the full. I’m not sure I’d like to be on the other side of the gun when he’s firing because he may just hit me!Disability is a real issue that we seem to either dwell on unhealthily or we struggle with where disabled people fit in. Perhaps it’s time WE stopped doing the thinking & gave our disabled friends chance to demonstrate their true abilities.
Shaun, like my blind friend Tanvi, teaches me a great deal without saying a word.
Take care until next time …