Who inspires you? Your mom or dad? Your husband, wife or partner? Maybe a mentor or role model who changed things because they were hopeful enough to wish for it ... brave enough to take a chance ... honest enough to wear their heart on their sleeve. Or someone who allowed you to see her vulnerable side and in so doing gave you permission to see a need and change things. It is in those moments we hear inspiring words when we say to ourselves, "Why can't I be better? Why can't I make someone else's life better?"
When we're truly inspired, we are moved to make a difference and we start asking ourselves "what can I do that could MEAN something more than...'more for me?"
I never thought I could do anything to change this world. I didn't think "finding my purpose" would happen for me...that happened to larger than life figures like Oprah Wayne Dyer, Maya Angelou, Nelson Mandela and a young girl named Malala, but not to regular people like me....and maybe that's what most of us think.
Then one day, out of the blue, and let me tell you that's exactly how it happens, you're inspired and things begin to change, first inside you, and then outside you. For me it happened the day a little girl in messy pigtails and too-tight jeans whispered in my ear, "Miss, what are pajamas?" Something moved in me. Memories 30 years old rushed at me and my mind was full of images of my mom sitting at my bed reading me stories and pulling the covers up to my chin. I instantly remembered how it felt to have her love and tenderness filling me from head to toe simply by her touch.
Over the next days and weeks I discovered that we "regular" people can find a meaningful purpose to make sense of our lives and make a difference together. Sometimes "regular" people can move mountains to revolutionize the status quo, and sometimes comforting a child is just as important, especially for the child who desperately wishes and wishes for things to change, for the child who hopes and hopes that tomorrow will be better...for the child who prays and prays for a family of his own. These children are hopeful enough to wish for change... brave enough to take a chance to look for it... honest enough to wear their hearts on their sleeves, all the while allowing us to see their vulnerable side as they look for what we all want, LOVE. These children inspire us to make things better.
HOPEFUL enough? That's Sammy. One day, at our Pajama Program Reading Center, I stood in the doorway watching six year old Sammy running toward me to begin his reading session. He was living in a children's group home and attended our Friday sessions. He was dragging what looked like a big black garbage bag. When he noticed me he ran to me as fast as he could.
"Miss Gennie, Miss Gennie, I have a foster family! I have a foster family!" He exclaimed. "I'm leaving TODAY to live with my foster family! My foster mom is picking me up at 5 o'clock and I need to take a lot of pajamas and books with me!"
In that moment I felt Sammy's unshakable hope of being tucked into bed in his comfy pajamas, warm and cozy, in a real home, with a new family who will love and care for him as much as he deserves.
BRAVE ENOUGH? That's Rachel, a 15 year old aging out of a group home and being told they are transferring her to another group home out of State where the girls are as old as 18. She knew she didn't have a choice as they couldn't find any family anywhere to take her in. Rachel tried to put up a strong front but she cracked as she shyly came to me one afternoon and asked me if I would show her how to apply makeup. "The girls will be older than I am and I want to fit in," she said.
HONEST ENOUGH to wear his heart on his sleeve? That's Jason whose note to me read, "These are the first PJs I ever owned." I have that note framed and I look at it every day and treasure those brutally honest and blistering words.
And VULNERABLE ENOUGH to ask for love? That's Isabella. At a reading party we held at a shelter a little girl named Isabella was there to hear a story and receive a pair of pajamas. She sat eagerly waiting for her name to be called for her gifts and when she heard it she jumped up and ran over to me, red-faced. I handed her the pretty yellow pajamas we put her name on. As she leaned in to hug me, she asked me if I would visit again and bring her more pajamas... "and shoes too!" She tugged at my heart and I promised her another visit with pajamas. "Is it ok if I bring you slippers?" I asked. "Oh yes, that's fine," she giggled. I giggled too. Then she looked me right in the eyes and said
"Please don't forget me."
How could I? How could anyone?
Isabella inspired me. She would have inspired you too.