01/03/2012 01:02 pm ET Updated Mar 04, 2012

Her First Day

You've heard or read our stories about some of the children we meet when we deliver pajamas and books through Pajama Program like the child who asked us "what are these?" when I tried to give her a pair of pajamas, and the little girl who was so excited when we brought her pajamas that she asked, "next time when you bring pajamas can you bring me shoes too?" Those are the little ones that tug at your heart, they're still full of hope -- so happy to receive the attention we give them, so sure that something really good will happen soon. As they get older too often that hope dwindles and they are no longer those innocent little children who think tomorrow will be better. Too many times they become lost. We see these children too.

One of the activities for the tween and teen girls of the Pajama Program is called Poetry Plus. We visit some of their group residences when we deliver pajamas and books and we read and write poetry with them. The girls love poetry. They want to feel like we all feel when we read poetry, that love is possible and that the world's mysteries are a natural part of our thoughts and dreams.
Many of the girls in the group homes have been moved often. They've been taken away from their natural homes, sometimes shuffled between relatives and then foster homes. A group home can be just another stop for them.

During one of our Poetry Plus visits, a quiet girl sitting by herself caught my attention. She was about 13. She didn't interact and she looked scared. Another one of the girls whispered to me,

"That's Alexis. It's her first day."

My heart broke, again. I couldn't imagine what she was feeling. She must have been so afraid. All I wanted to do was put my arms around her and take her home -- give her an instant family and take away her pain.

I tried to talk to Alexis but she was so withdrawn -- no doubt lonely and confused. I found out that until that day, she was living with a foster family but it didn't work out. I finally talked her into sitting with us and listening to some poetry and I did my best to pass love and comfort to her with my every rhyming word.

But all the poetry in the world couldn't have taken away her pain, or given her a family. The best we could do was give her comfort and love through the beautiful words written by thoughtful poets who can somehow reach the soul when we can't find a way with our own words.

There's work to be done to keep hope alive in these children. Together we can make a meaningful impact in their lives. By spending time with them and giving love through our gifts, we can make a difference at their most vulnerable time, nighttime. As they climb into bed in their new, soft pajamas and with a book to keep them company as they fall off to sleep, I believe they feel our love.