Jonah and the Whale

Mollie - Niskayuna, New York
Entered on February 1, 2009
Age Group: Under 18

A sixteenth birthday is a milestone that marks the beginning of independence in everyone’s lives. One can attain a driver’s learner’s permit and a job, two things a young teenager yearns for. Most teenagers end up getting paid minimum wage stocking shelves or attempting to organize the colossal mountain of discounted clothes at Marshalls. That was going to be me until I met Jonah.

I met Jonah last spring when my friend Jenna introduced me to his family. They were looking for a new babysitter to replace her when she went off to college in the upcoming fall. Jenna believed I was perfect for the job, even though I had no idea what it entailed.

Jonah has severe Cerebral Palsy, a birth defect that prevents him from doing everything we take for granted. From the moment Jonah wakes up in the morning, to the moment he lays his little head on his pillow nine at night. He has none stop assistance. Daily he greets his multiple babysitters with a contagious smile and a big slobbery kiss.

I spend almost every Friday night alone with Jonah watching a variety of Wiggles DVDs and singing the song, “Jonah and the Whale,” and to tell you the truth, I wouldn’t want to spend it any other way. Though he is not like most eight-year-old boys, he has a bigger personality than anyone I know. He tells jokes and sings songs even though he can barely form the words. His favorite thing to do is to listen to his big sister play piano in the parlor. As she plays, he screams, claps, and encourages everyone around him to do the same.

I struggle with a disability myself, Dyslexic. Though it is barely noticed by my teachers now, I had my own battles with it as a young child. Now as a junior in high school, I sometimes become frustrated when a concept does not come easily to me. When I become hard on myself, I think of Jonah. Jonah can barely speak, yet he is by far the happiest person I know. His persistence has given me the courage to try more difficult things.

On Christmas, I taught him how to drink from a cup on his own. When he placed it on the table for the first time without spilling it, you could see the happiness in his eyes. He was so proud of his achievement that he repeatedly drank from his cup until he became full. Never have I seen him complain or become frustrated with his disabilities. He is eager to improve. Jonah himself is the biggest inspiration in the lives of anyone that knows him.

Seven months ago when I started babysitting for Jonah, I thought I wasn’t equipped for the job, but Jonah has taught me there is no such word as “can’t.” If there is a will there’s a way, and that is why I believe Jonah is the best thing that has ever happened to me.