This I Believe

David - Webster, New York
Entered on March 1, 2007

Not many people can say that their childhood hero was Bill Nye the Science Guy. Most people would pick one of their parents instead, but I would as well. However, there is one definitive cause of my personality, my sense of humor, and my uniqueness: and that is almost entirely attributed to my older and younger brother, Ian Kintisch Campbell.

I say that he is older and younger for a reason. He is older in that he was born nineteen months before I was. It is this alone that makes him older, for he is not truly his own age. He was born with Down syndrome. Later, he developed autism. He is, in a way, an overgrown five-year-old.

My brother is not a normal autistic child due to Down syndrome, however, have an incredible memory, especially for numbers. He will walk into a Taco Bell, ask the cashier his or her name, and then ask about his or her birthday. Six months later, he will return to the same restaurant, recognize the same cashier, and tell him or her their name and birthday.

I grew up introverted as such—what else was there to do? My parents either worked or took care of Ian, and left me alone. I had to find other things to do. By age three, I could read fairly well. I remember going to the library and getting a basic book on multiplication—really, it was only a picture book—but, from that point on, I could do math. From then on, at age four, math was what I did. I turned to television only when Bill Nye was on. He was mostly responsible for the geek I call myself today. Were it not for Ian, I would never have found these things, because I would never have become quite as introverted.

I eventually grew smart enough to actually notice what was different about my brother. It is really quite fascinating: he lacks a definite ability to reason abstractly. He sees everything as it is, and cannot look deeper. He does not see underlying problems. A trip to Wal-Mart will make his day a good one, as will a meal served with Root Beer. This sort of thing makes him a person you somehow wish you were.

I believe that really everyone should get to know a person like Ian. It will bring out a part of you that you never knew existed: a part of you that will have you openly sympathize with him, and then, eventually, everyone. If you know him long enough, you will begin to treat people differently. You will treat people by first look at them through their own eyes, and then walking a little distance in their shoes. You will see how much the same everyone truly is.

I treat everyone like this, as a rule.