This is a narrative about volunteer surrogate grandparents living among teens (who are not related) in a rural, residential school setting far from the crowds of urban Southern California -- and loving it.
When we are hit with snowstorms or worse, many of us have friends we can turn to, places to stay for a while. So many families don't have this support, these types of friends. They're all in the same boat. Their children are huddled together.
Just as important as finding your purpose is where it leads you, who it touches, what it changes, and the larger effect it has on the greater good. Sometimes your purpose leads you to a place you could never imagine -- case in point -- pajamas.
As I gave out pajamas every day, I was continually enlightened by the reaction from moms and dads who were donating to Pajama Program and from the women and men who were caring for children receiving our pajamas.
We know that the number of children in need in the U.S. is growing, due to the difficult economic conditions many American families face. All children need and deserve to feel safe and loved at all times, but especially at bedtime.
Children we meet ask us what pajamas are; I still can't believe it. They shouldn't have to sleep in their clothes for days and nights at a time. There are no soothing story books to help distract them from frightening thoughts before sleep.
The last "class" brought tears to our eyes and saying goodbye after just two weeks was difficult, actually downright depressing. We will miss them and the life they brought to our Reading Center every day.
All of us have a calling. Despite financial and administrative challenges, teachers respond to their calling with gusto. Every day their devotion to teach through love transcends the mindless pay cuts, budget slashes and never ending troubles they are up against.
As we ready our new Reading Center in NYC for Opening Day I am haunted by a call I received several years ago. The call came from a man who said he read about our Program and wanted to learn more. He asked a lot of questions and finally revealed, "I lived in an orphanage."
In one of the rooms in our new Reading Center we're showcasing inspirational and motivational quotes in a mural. As I read the quotes I realize the words are as much for me as they are for the teens. Maybe you'll agree -- we'd be moving mountains much faster if we all believed these words...
Our Literacy Program's goal is focused on lifelong learning and upon making a positive impact on the growth of our student readers. To this end we're making plans to fill our space with thousands of children pre-K through teenagers.
Feeling connected to the children we serve is so important to all of us. In every box of pajamas and books we send to group homes and shelters we include a sheet called Pajama Program's Kids Blog sheet.
A sad lesson we have learned over our 11 years is that too often, children in foster care have little that they can call their own. We have been working to help change that sad fact, even just a little.
Letters and notes from the children we serve have guided me to five answers, especially where our teens are concerned: Listen. Don't judge. Hear their call for help. Take a step toward, not away, from them. Never forget them.
Sometimes I am sure I see a spark in a child's eye when he's on line with his classmates to put his gifts on the bus that tells me he gets it -- it's about helping someone else, not just once, but in the days and years to come.
I no longer yearn for those pot of gold gifts I wanted when I was younger - a jaguar to drive and a fancy house to live in. I am grateful for my pajamas and books just as much as the little boy in the letter is. And I know giving is the real gift.