Pajama Program celebrated our 10th birthday this year, 2011, but we're not really "celebrating." We exist to provide new pajamas and new books to children in need here in the US., but honestly, I wish there wasn't this need at all. This year we reached a milestone -- we've given 1 million pajamas and books to children who desperately need them -- and that's just a drop in the bucket as they say. Our wait list is way too long to acknowledge, but that's what keeps us focused.
Pajama Program exists for a very simple reason -- because it reflects the child that lives within all of us, the child who is desperate for love, to belong, to matter to someone, even just to snuggle up on someone's lap.
Many have met our children.. .read to them... helped them put on their new pajamas right away -- even if it's 12 noon. They just want to put them on because they're clean and warm and they fit. Some of our volunteers have heard a child ask, "When do I have to give my pajamas and books back?" And we've had to hold back tears and tell them, "Never. They're yours forever!"
And, unfortunately some of us hear stories about why a child doesn't have a mother or father anymore. Stories like 5-year-old Joshua, who, when we delivered pajamas and books to his group home, smuggled an armful of girls size 3 pajamas under his bed. Why? Because his mother repeatedly burned his little sister with her cigarettes until someone finally came and took them out of her care. His sister was in ICU and he wanted to make sure she got her PJs.
These are the children we serve.
The children we see don't ask for much. They want hugs and kisses and juice, and someone to read them a story. They want to be with people they feel safe around and they want to look at someone who smiles at them and makes them feel loved for as long as the smile will hold.
Over the past 10 years of Pajama Program, I have gradually felt my emotions floating to the top more and more. It's extremely unsettling. These days I can cry at the drop of a hat. I cry when I think of my mom and our bedtime stories, and I cry when a small child refuses to smile here at our Pajama Program Reading Center. I cry when I think of why she won't smile. Often I have to hide so no one will see how overwhelmed with emotion I get over these children and our work.
Everyday these children wake up and probably like all kids, hope something fantastic happens today. Don't we all?