It's time to find a new home for our Pajama Program Reading Center in NYC and it's breaking my heart. Now, six years after we opened our NYC doors, we are bursting at the seams. More children than we can accommodate are on our long wait list for readings here. It's time to find a bigger space and make our next NYC Reading Center just as magical, even more so. This has become our home and it's tearing me apart to leave, but I know it's time.
"Home" is a word that conjures up so many feelings: family, love, safety, comfort, belonging and security. At least that's what most of us believe "home" means. But that's not what many of the children we meet feel when they think of "home." Their homes are often broken beyond repair, and when they think about the word "home" they are sad, frightened and nervous. They are definitely not homes children deserve. Our Pajama Program Reading Center. NYC is a very special place. So many children who have come through our doors have been lonely and afraid for a long time. They have felt the most dreaded feelings you or I could ever imagine -- unwanted, unloved and rejected. Some of them have desperately wished they were invisible and prayed so hard for the pain to go away. We have caught several here hiding behind our bookcases, not wanting to leave. I cannot fathom that feeling. I cannot begin to know how that little boy got through the first day after a social worker took him out of his house because his mother was burning him and his baby sister with cigarettes. He asked us for pajamas for his sister and told us she was in ICU. Did he even know what ICU stands for?
I vowed to make this a place that gives the children a refuge, a welcoming home where they know joy, even just for a little while. Our loving supporters and partners filled this space with wonder and beauty and enchantment. A place children don't want to leave, a place where they feel like they belong and are wanted.
Once you walk in the door there's an overwhelming sensation that this is where you want to stay for as long as you can. You feel warm all over. It's a place where children immediately sense pure joy, their faces light up and they feel love, lots of love. They shriek with delight when they see their favorite characters on the wall, almost life-like enough to jump out of the enormous mural. After their reading time they wait for their names to be called to get their special packages of new pajamas and books especially for each one of them, tied with a ribbon. You can feel the tingling running through their little bodies. I've heard their squeals thousands of time but still today they pierce my heart.
It's time to gather all the support we can so we are able to find another, bigger space. We will put the magic in it. It's time to serve more children, to plan readings for more groups, to give more of the children books, warm pajamas and hugs. It's time to invite more children in and give them a chance to see that there's a beautiful place just for them when they open our door. It's time.