Jonathan is thirteen years old today.
How is it possible that this cheerful, chunky-cheeked six-month-old
-- or this angel-faced four-year-old --
is now this teenager who is nearly as tall as I am?
When Jonathan was born, he was a big, plump butterball. He was an extremely fussy baby much of the time -- especially at bedtime -- but he could also be very placid. I remember when Jonathan was just a few months old, a couple from our church brought a young man to church with them; he was an Asian graduate student who struggled with depression. We would give Jonathan to him to hold, and Jonathan would lie in his arms in total serenity. It seemed to make this young man feel serene and peaceful too. The wife of the couple commented to me at that time, "Jonathan has a ministry."
Thirteen years later, I can say that that's still true. I wouldn't use "placid" to describe Jonathan anymore; in fact, living with him is challenging (exhausting? infuriating?) in a lot of ways. But that's not what I'm focusing on today. The fact is, Jonathan has a gift of making people happy.
- Everyone he meets is a friend.
- He spreads encouragement, calling out "Excellent job!" to the recycling-truck guy, the McDonald's employee putting trash in the garbage bin, and the total stranger shoveling snow.
- His pleasure in the things he sees around him -- airplanes in the sky, laundry on the line, wind turbines, garbage trucks -- makes other people stop and smile.
- He has some amazing skills that are impressive to everyone who observes them. For instance, he has always had remarkable ball-handling and basketball-shooting skills. (Doing "yellow-blue-red" -- see photo -->
every day for the past five years or more must have something to do with that.) He's phenomenal at doing jigsaw puzzles. He's also got extremely acute senses: he can see the tiniest, most distant airplane in the sky; he hears a helicopter about ten seconds before anyone else does; and he has a very accurate sense of smell. He can even identify what he smells on your breath: "Smell yogurt" or "Smell wine." (There has to be some way to channel these abilities into lucrative careers: Harlem Globetrotter? Sommelier?)
- A primary teacher at his school (whose class Jonathan has never been in) told me, "Jonathan is such a gift to our school. When we talk about people who are special or different and how much we can learn from them, the kids will say 'Just like Jonathan' and 'That's right, we have Jonathan.'"
The world is a funnier, happier, and more interesting place because Jonathan is in it. If that's what "having a ministry" means, then I guess he does.
Happy birthday, Jonathan. And yes, we'll be having cake.
... and candles.
... and presents.