Wednesday, 31 December 2014



“Hello? Oh…..2015!!! Is it really that time already? I'm not quite ready....

Hi, yes of course you can…….come on in, let me take your coat……sit down……, there’s no need to take your shoes off……are you staying long? ………Oh, really?.……..Better take your shoes off………If I’d known I’d have tidied up. You don’t mind me just getting on while you’re here do you? There’s so much to do. I remember telling your old friend 2014 the same thing about this time last year………What happened to her by the way? 2014? ……….Couldn’t take the pace? Unable to cope with change? …………….Well she certainly left the place in a bit of a mess, what with her Christmas parties and all…..shame she couldn’t stay to welcome in the New Year……….”

Happy New Year! Can you believe it’s already 2015? 15 years since we said goodbye to the 20th century and welcomed in the dawn of a new millennium? Each year that passes seems to be packed with so much happening that it’s difficult to keep up – am I the only one who feels like they’re running on a treadmill, putting in loads of effort and using copious amounts of energy yet getting nowhere? Probably not.

Each year holds good things – moments, days, seasons, which we wished we could hold on to forever and never let go. Sometimes they’re just the small victories of getting to an appointment on time or a holiday where the weather stayed fine. Sometimes, they’re the seemingly huge victories where justice is done, getting a child into the school you want them to attend or finally receiving the benefits you’re entitled to but have never been able to access before.

However, each year also holds its challenges. Sometimes the challenge and the victory are related, intertwined even. Sometimes the challenge appears to have the better of us, we feel like we are a failure and we stop and we weep. And that's ok. But we never give up ….because every time we get back up again, every time we dry our tears, we overcome those feelings and we begin to live like we are already victorious before the battle is even won and that's a great attitude to keep. 

What will 2015 hold for your family…… for your situation…..for your challenge…..for you?

I went for a walk last week with Emily. We didn’t go far, just up the field next to our home. It’s not somewhere we go usually but it just looked so beautiful dressed in snow (and Emily didn’t want to go far – home bird that she is). So off we toddled. It was a lovely cold, crisp, sunny day; the kind of day where your breath freezes on your lips. A glad-to-be-alive day! The snow had met a particularly sharp frost the previous night, which created a crystal carpet of sheer beauty. Everywhere we looked the sun caught these crystals and the refracted light made it look like a diamond studded landscape. All those years as children we spent making Christmas cards, dabbing bits of glue all over the front and pouring silver glitter over it until it was completely covered, before shaking it off to reveal a glittery picture. Well here we were walking in our very own picture created just for us.

As we reached the top of the hill I looked back and saw Emily walking just behind me. Then it hit me. I guess I needed the snow to give me a visual point of reference. Emily had made it to the top of the hill, not because she was walking in my footsteps. No…she had made her own way. She had trod her own path. Her footprints were very evident. This is Emily’s life. She walks her own path through life. In this town, in her own way, she is a pioneer. Emily achieves things that others have not achieved eg. she is the only person with Down’s syndrome in her musical theatre school of well over a hundred and can draw a tear as she signs the lyrics whilst someone else sings Over the Rainbow.

She is the person who has pioneered and continues to pioneer in other ways regarding her education. You know, being a pioneer is not an easy path to tread. You've got nobody else to follow. It's like the old explorers who set off on an adventure and literally drew the map as they went. In the world of disability, especially Down's syndrome, there's still an awful lot of map drawing to be done. 

As Emily’s Dad, I will always be there, as will her Mum, to show her the way, to walk alongside, to guide and to encourage, but ultimately it is Emily who walks her life out. They are her footprints, it’s her achievement when she gets to the top of the hill, she has her very own challenges, her very own disappointments and her very own victories.

Amazing, don’t you think, that when something like the snow comes along to cover up and conceal what is familiar and recognised, at the same time something is revealed which is equally familiar yet not always recognised or acknowledged. I feel a little like John Newton, the slave trader, who wrote the hymn Amazing Grace - "I once was lost but now am found, was blind but now I see".

Whatever 2015 holds for you and your family I pray that it is a year of rich blessing, unmerited favour, amazing grace, incredible progress, joy, abundance, prosperity and growth; a year where strangleholds are broken, strongholds are torn down, barriers are removed, boundaries are re-drawn; a year of health where you and your family flourish and thrive. May this be a year where we all recognise the potential within each one of us and then do all we can to release, and fulfill, that potential. May it be a year where more and more opportunities arise for people with Down’s syndrome, and other learning disabilities, to enable them to fulfill their potential and to be free to be who they are. May we help them, and release them, to walk their own path and to make their indelible mark upon this earth with the footprints only they can make.

Before you know it, 2015 will be putting her shoes back on and closing the door behind her. What kind of story will she tell, I wonder……?


  1. Paul, you have such a way with words. Easy to read, easy to understand and yet always so poignant. I wish you and all the family a very Happy 2015 and may it bring you peace, joy and good health. x Best wishes from Diane and Pete Cashmore

  2. Emily is a pioneer, an explorer, an ambassador. Paul, your writing just goes from strength to strength. Thank you for leading the way for us all.