07/10/2013 01:10 pm ET Updated Sep 09, 2013

What Happens at Bedtime?

What happens at bedtime? I have thought about this almost every day for the past 12 years. But I didn't think about it at all for 35 years before that. It's amazing what we don't think about when we're busy working, running errands, making plans, having a good time, fixing what's broken, and getting through each day fairly unscathed. Stop and think about it and you'll be surprised what words come to mind: tired, sleep, warmth, dreams, comfort, peace, worries, fears. There's one word that's now top of mind for me: solitude. It doesn't matter if you are in bed alone or with someone, those last few minutes before you fall asleep you are alone with your thoughts.

How important those thoughts are! Think about last night. Can you remember how you felt before you dozed off? I think about the bedtimes of the children we serve and wonder, "what was on their minds?"

We see them here at our Reading Center and they leave us with smiles -- pajamas and books in their arms. We picture them putting on their new PJs and crawling into bed with a loving adult at bedside reading them their new storybook. But does it happen that way? Are their last thoughts of the day when they are alone in bed blissful as a child's should be? Do they feel safe and content? Or are they tossing and turning, crying into a pillow?

If I could tuck each child in myself I would, but I know I can't be there in their solitude. I can't take away their sadness or loneliness with a kiss and a "sleep tight, don't let the bed bugs bite." But what I do believe is that we can transmit our feelings of comfort and care for each child through our gifts and they will feel it. The evidence that people care is now palpable to them. The proof is real and it might be what gets them through the night. This is my dream at bedtime and what we strive for -- one more chance to give these children hope that there will be loving individuals along the way who care about them, day and night, especially when they are alone.