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I have been attending Willow Creek Community Church since I was in 5th grade. I first went there to go to “divorce recovery,” even though my parents had been divorced for a few years. I then started going to the church services around 6th grade, and realized how much I liked it. The atmosphere was so much more laid back than my previous church. I made a deeper connection with my group leaders, and I never felt like I was being forced to go to church. I truly enjoyed attending the weekly service.
Around 7the grade, I decided I wanted to get involved at Willow. Volunteers had always been there for me, and now I wanted to be there for others. I decided to sign up to work with the four and five year olds. These kids were crazy, but it was a blast. There was never a dull moment. I always got tons of questions from these children like,
“Ms. Hannah, will you play with me?”
“Ms. Hannah, will you color with me?”
“Ms. Hannah, can I go to the bathroom please?”
There kids never failed to stop talking. I loved working with them, but then school got crazy, and I was working with them less and less. After about a year, I stopped going with them all together. I felt awful, but school and soccer had just gotten in the way.
Fast forward to my freshman year. This is a year about completely new beginnings. For me, it was getting back involved in thee church. I loved working with the four year olds, but what I realized I would much rather do is work with the infants. I signed up, took a test, and soon enough I was working with the babies. I originally started in the “non-crawlers” room, for the babies who cannot crawl, but then one day I was moved to the “crawlers” room. These infants range in age from probably around six monthes to a year, and they are always moving. There were usually about ten babies per room, if not more, and about 5 volunters. You might be thinking, who would want to be working with ten screaming babies at 8:30 in the morning? Well, I did.
One day, the lady in charge, Sue, pulled me aside. She said,
“How would you feel about being a room leader?”
A room leader was the person in charge of the entire room. They had to check in the babies, make sure everything went well, and then check them out, making sure every child went with the correct parent. I thought I could handle it, so I agreed to be a leader.
Things were going fine, and I actually liked feeling important, and that people trusted me. I loved all of the babies, and had fun watching all of them. However, there was one that I felt was so unique. Her name was Joslyn. She was one of the happiest babies I had ever seen. She rarely ever cried, and always had fun playing with the others. She, like the others, crawled around everywhere, and never stopped moving. But Joslyn was different. She had spina bifida.
Spina bifida is a birth defect in which when the baby is born, there is a hole in their spine. Joslyn may never walk, and will possibly be confined to a wheel chair for her entire life. She has some speech problems, and develops slower than the rest of the children. She is also one of the sweetest, and I loved her dearly. Joslyn has a one on one person who would be with her every week, just because it would be hard for a room leader to watch her along with all the other kids. Plus, the one on one has to know how Joslyn works, and what she will respond to.
One week, her one on one told me she was not going to be there for the next two weeks. Of everyone she could have chosen, she chose me to fill in for her. Not an adult or someone with more experience with special needs children, but me. She knew I would be able to handle her, and that Joslyn would respond well being with me. Joslyn even began saying my name and recognizing me when I would work with her, and her one on one and I both realized how big this was. It was amazing how quickly she became comfortable being around me, even though it was hard for her to be around new people.
It was not always the easiest. Being the room leader still, I also had the other children to make sure were taken care of. However, Joslyn would get upset when I left her, and would start crying. I felt torn, but I knew I needed to make sure I made the right choices when I was around her. It was never simple, but I realized how helping out with her made me feel so important. She enjoyed being around me, and never wanted me to leave her. Although I was aware she did have some separation anxiety, it still felt nice that she thought I was important, and that I was doing the right things with her to make her happy.
All of my life I have always been told to help out those in need. There never needs to be sometheing that you get in return. I volunteered my Sunday mornings even though, like most teenagers, I would love to be sleeping. However, spending time withe these children was different. I actually felt like I was doing sometheing right, like I was doing something important. Even though Joslyn has matured and grown past the “non-crawlers” stage, I will never forget the impact she made on my life. Although I had plenty of other children to deal with, I knew I had to be making the right choices with her. I had to do the right thing, and seeing the smile pop onto her face whenever she saw me made it all worthwhile. She would hold out her arms to be picked up, I would smile at her, pick her up, and knew I made the right choice signing up to work at the church.