I’m a Gleek.
There. I’ve said it. I’m a forty-six year old man. I have a beard. I hold down a job. I even drink beer on Friday nights.
And I like Glee. In fact, I’ve never missed an episode.
I’ve laughed at Rachel Berry’s antics. I’ve snarled at Sue Sylvester. I’ve sniggered at Puck. I’ve marvelled at the dance abilities of Mike Change. I’ve sung to the songs (anything written pre 1990 – anything after I don’t understand, so I just sway to them).
I’m a Gleek through and through and I’ve never told anyone – till now.
So why am I now showing you my inner Gleek?
In the episode of Glee entitled “Yes/No”, Becky Jackson (played by Lauren Potter) makes up her mind that she wants one of the boys at school – Artie – for her boyfriend.
Lauren Potter is a real life sufferer of Down Syndrome. Here’s a few quick facts about the condition: it crops up at a rate of about 1 in every 733 births. It usually impairs both physical and mental functions. The IQ of people with Downs is usually lower than average, but many of them successfully finish school and go on to have productive lives in our communities.
But it’s a bum deal. It’s unfair. It’s like handing someone a weight to carry every single day of their lives. Never is anything going to be easy for them – or as easy as it would be for a fully able bodied person. The simple, everyday tasks of life are always going to be a little more difficult and the road a little more rocky.
So why am I telling you all this?
You see, I like heroes. I write young adult adventure novels where my characters are busy saving the day (and the world) through extraordinary acts of bravery. The goals are never small. They’re large. Enormous, even. By the last page, all is well that end’s well.
But sometimes the really heroic acts in life are not always so easy to see.
In the recent Glee episode, Becky’s inner voice is played by actress Helen Mirren. When Artie tells her that he only wants to be friends (and who has never heard these words?), Becky turns and walks off thinking to herself, “I didn’t ask him if the reason he didn’t want to be my boyfriend is because I have Downs. I didn’t ask him because I know the answer is yes.”
Wandering through the corridors of the school, she holds her head up high as she struggles to hold back the tears.
“Focus Becky,” she tells herself. “Don’t let them see you cry.”
For me, I was reminded of a life that might have been.
When I was twelve years old my mother was only a few days away from giving birth to my baby sister when she was rushed to hospital with complications. I’ll never forget the scene in the waiting room as my father explained to me that my sister had died. If she had lived, he explained, she probably would have been physically and/or mentally handicapped.
This was a lot to take in at twelve years of age. I know the loss affected my parents. It affects them still to this day. My sister’s death left me an only child, leaving me to ponder the life that could have been. My sister’s name was Kathleen and I hope I would have been a good brother to her no matter what her physical or mental condition.
I thought of her when I watched the Glee episode “Yes/No”.
People like Lauren Potter help to bring a little humility to our lives.
A little – realness.
There’s an opportunity for us when we see people like Lauren. If we’re smart, we can understand what we’re seeing. It lies below the surface and we’re often so wrapped up in the glitz and glamour of life that we fail to recognise it.