11/20/2014 01:46 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

Who Benefits More...the Children ... or the Volunteers?!


Volunteers sometimes tell me they benefit more than the children they're reading with here at Pajama Program NYC! I love to hear how one hour with our children gave someone a chance to shower love on a child, while escaping together to an enchanted place for a little while. Volunteers enter our magical world and immediately lose their adult demeanor. They stop being grown-up and in moments revert back to the cuddly, carefree children they themselves once were. They sit on the floor with the kids and the metamorphosis begins!

I personally know you can escape to another world here, even on your worst day. When I am feeling low, I can watch a train of four-year olds pass my door headed to one of our Reading Rooms and I will feel my burden lessen as they smile and wave at me. As I follow them to listen to their favorite animal or food during their ice breaker exercise, my heart releases my hurt and opens again to fill up with all their gentleness and sweetness. That transformation takes seconds but the feel-good effect lasts all day.

Judy C. volunteers to read with our children often. The stories she tells us leave us sometimes laughing, sometimes crying but they always give us insight into what these children are thinking. And they seem to give Judy a much-needed respite from her daily routine.

On Judy's last visit she told us about 10 year old Antonio, with whom she had just read several stories. Antonio recognized a book he wanted, Spirit Animals, on our shelf, but he was hoping for the third in its series. He informed Judy he had read the first two! Liz overheard him ask Judy for volume #3 and she told Antonio, "I'll go check downstairs," to which he exclaimed to Judy, "You have a basement too?! I wish I could live here!"

Antonio could barely sit still when Liz came back upstairs with volume #3!

"I really consider it a gift to see the smiles, watch the sense of accomplishment and pride as the child who is reading with me explores new books and new challenges. Whether the boy or girl can breeze through a book with expression, or is a listener as I read aloud, each experience brings a new encounter and joy," Judy told me.

On her way out she turned and said, "When people learn that I volunteer at Pajama Program they say, "Isn't that nice of you!" and I always respond, I'm the lucky one, it's nice FOR me!"