How many of you have a sibling/siblings? I have a brother; two years younger than I am. To say we are “polar opposites” would be an understatement. I had, (before the gray took over) dark hair. My eyes are brown. Shawn had (before he lost his) blonde hair. He has blue eyes. I’m very outspoken; Shawn is meek and mild. Shawn sees the good in everyone and everything. Me: well, let’s just say I think I see my realities in everyone and everything.

Shawn lives in Clinton, Arkansas. He rode the train in this past week to stay a couple of weeks with my mom and dad. Shawn has cerebral palsy, but you wouldn’t know it if you didn’t see him walking on his canes. He’s a college graduate, can sing like nobody’s business, is married, has two grown daughters; just the part of his brain that tells his legs to walk doesn’t work. As far back as I can remember, Shawn has never used his handicap as a “crutch” so to speak. In fact, I don’t think he ever looked at himself as being handicapped. He never ceased to amaze me with his attitude toward people who can, at times, be a bit insensitive toward people who aren’t exactly like we think they should be.

Example: when we were in school together at Elysian Fields, we had two main hallways (wings) at the school. I was walking in between class one day and someone came running up and said “Is Shawn ok?” I replied, “I don’t know what you’re talking about” to which they quickly responded “So and so (I shall keep her name out of it) walked up behind him in the hall and pulled both of his crutches out from under him and he fell.”

There is a saying that goes “Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.” Well, a sister whose little brother just got bullied may be in a category above that. I tore out running to the other hallway and started asking where she was. As soon as I found out, I knocked on the door and Coach Sanders answered the door. Let me interject here: Coach Sanders was as mild mannered of a human being as you could ever hope to meet. He opened the door and politely said “Hello Dawn. What can I help you with?” I’m sure my face gave the answer because I looked past him, in to the classroom, made eye contact with HER and said “You can let me see her in the hallway right now!”

Coach Sanders was a sharp guy and he immediately knew that he definitely did not need to let me see her in the hallway. Anyway, he calmed me down, called her dad, and she was at our house that afternoon, crying and apologizing to Shawn for what she had done. When they left, I was still fuming! What did Shawn say? “You know, I feel sorry for people like her that feel like they need to do things like that.” What???? You feel sorry for her???

I went to visit Shawn Sunday in Bethany. We were visiting and he told me a story that reminded me of his compassionate and mild nature. Shawn is a “bell ringer” every year for Salvation Army in their hometown. Cold, snow, rain ... doesn’t matter. He faithfully rings a bell. He said this year, a woman came up to him while he was ringing the bell and asked, “Are you a part of any of the Salvation Army Programs?” He answered, “I’m not sure exactly what you’re speaking about. I work with them every Christmas.” She said “No. I mean; are you in one of their programs for addiction recovery or anything like that?” Shawn replied “No ma’am. I’m a retired music minister that just loves helping out this time of year.” The woman then had the unmitigated gall to say “That’s what’s wrong with America. People who are receiving help from programs don’t give back and help. I was going to give you this dollar (yes, one whole dollar) if you were a by-product of their programs but I don’t think I will.”

Shawn asked her name and contact information so that he could let his supervisor know she had a complaint. Of course, she didn’t want to give him her name because she was, and I quote, “an American and I don’t have to do that.” Ok, here’s the honest truth. Had I been ringing that bell and that woman said that to me ... I would have told her I didn’t want her measly dollar and asked her to take her sorry carcass somewhere else. (I apologize. Not very Christian, but I’m just keepin’ it real.)

When I told Shawn what my response would have been, Shawn told me this story.

“But, then, a woman came up and looked like she had fallen on hard times. She asked me if I could make sure she was giving me four bills of money. I looked and said ‘Ma’am. These aren’t dollar bills; these are hundred dollar bills. She said ‘Oh, I know. I give $100 per grandchild each year to the Salvation Army.” Shawn then finished telling me the story by saying “Those are the people you remember.”

So, sometimes your siblings may drive you up a wall and back down. Sometimes you may think you have nothing in common but I can guarantee you this ... you can always learn something from them and may I just say ... I will never be the caring, patient, understanding person that Shawn is, but I can try to do better.

Disclaimer: Shawn, if you say I said all these nice things about you, I will swear you lied. LOL! Love you, my brother!

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Dawn Dillard is a proud East Texas gal who loves all things southern, especially cooking, music and family. She can be reached via email at