I have one sibling, my sister, who is 18 months older than me.  I am 25 years old. People often think that I am older because I’m 6’2 and my sister Sara is 4’8. But it is quite the opposite, and Sara is never afraid to correct someone when they ask “Are you the little sister?” Sara was also born with Down syndrome, and she has been a great teacher to me.

Having a sibling with disabilities is full of highs and lows. The way she sees life is so interesting and seeing her positive outlook on life every day is inspiring.  Sometimes I have to weigh her optimism with the real world.  Society seems so filled with disillusionment and disappointment.  Her innocence makes me scared sometimes, because it is hard to look at a world that is so ready to take advantage of her.   I worry that some people may take advantage of my loved one.  Will she be safe without someone to watch over her, protect her, and supervise her so no one takes advantage?

Part of me wants to trust the world and thinks that people are genuinely good.  However, can I take the chance and risk that Sara will get hurt?   I like to imagine that Sara can go into the store by herself.  She can buy something small for four dollars and hands the cashier a hundred dollar bill instead of a five or a ten dollar bill.  In this situation Sara would not bat and eye if her change came back as a dollar and some change instead of the cashier explaining that she has given them a $100 bill.  I must learn to rely on the cashier to not take advantage of the situation.  Sara is so trusting and maybe I need to be more trusting of my fellow man.  However – I feel so protective of my sister.  Sometimes Sara gets annoyed with me trying to protect her and reminds me that I am her little brother.

Once Sara, a friend and I were awaiting a table at a restaurant which was crowded.  We were waiting for our table outside because the restaurant is small inside.  It was a cold day but we were all dressed appropriately for the weather. A group of women were also waiting outside for a table.  We were sitting right outside the restaurant and the group of women decided to cross the street to stand in the sun.   One woman from the group walked up to Sara and asked her if she was cold.  She insisted that Sara take expensive pair of gloves from her. Sara happily accepted and said thank you.  The situation made me feel very uncomfortable.  I wondered if the woman did not think that I could take care of my sister.  I felt ill intent and judgment coming from the woman about my capabilities to ensure that my sister was not freezing.  Sara on the other hand took it as an act of kindness.  I quickly realized that Sara was teaching me to accept the kindness and not assume it was anything other than a woman being kind.  As I thought of my reaction versus Sara’s reaction my feelings of uncomfortable feels abated.

Sara is always teaching me that most people are kind and accepting.  Sara is good, she is kindness embodied and that is humbling to me.  I have learned a lot from my sister and see the world as a kinder place because she is part of it.

—Kevin Ruh