Finding My Pajamas
Contrary to many entrepreneurs’ stories, I loved my career climbing the corporate ladder in marketing. I graduated from Fordham University in 1983 and began working for television syndication companies in New York City. I always knew I wanted to work behind the scenes in the entertainment business, and that’s what I did for the next 25 years. I was V.P. Marketing for TV syndication companies. But as time went on and years passed, I realized that I was working to make other people richer and happier. I wasn’t really “helping” anyone who needed help. I didn’t have my own family, and I didn’t know why. I was 38 and single, and my life was simple. I had a co-op in Riverdale, a great job, family, friends, travel for business and pleasure, nice things…and I thought that was all I needed.
One day, alone in my apartment, I heard a voice inside me ask, “If this is the next 30 years, is this enough?”
I was shocked to hear the words that spilled from my mouth in response, “No, you missed something: children.”
I knew I had to find a way to bring children into my life, so I started reading to children in emergency shelters at night.
The moment that changed my life occurred in 2000, when I visited a center in Harlem for children with no fathers and whose mothers were in prison. My intention was to read with them in the evening, after my work day.
One night, as I said goodbye to the children, I watched them go into a nearby room to sleep. They slowly climbed onto couches and futons. Some were crying, and the staff tried to comfort them and ease them onto a soft surface. There was no changing of their clothes, no bedtime stories, no hugs from moms or dads. I was paralyzed. This was not the way bedtime was supposed to be for a child. I waited for the staff to finish with the children and asked them if they needed pajamas…and if so, could I bring some? I couldn’t believe what the staff told me about the children who were brought to them every day and every night. The stories of abuse and neglect were horrifying and heart-breaking. I couldn’t change what had happened to these children, but at least I could give them a pair of warm, clean pajamas.
The next week, I brought 12 pairs of pajamas with me—one for each child I was told would be there.
As the children came into the room to sit and read with me, I gave each one a pair of pajamas. After a few minutes, one little girl looked up at me. “What are these?” she quietly asked.
“They’re pajamas,” I answered her.
“Where do I wear them?”
I answered, “To bed at night.”
She looked at me, puzzled.
“What do you usually wear to bed?” I asked her.
“My pants,” she said quietly.
My heart sank. On the subway to work a few weeks later, I felt what I can only describe as a “raindrop” fall onto my head. The words, Pajama Program, spoke to me from it loud and clear. It was at that moment I knew I had found my true purpose in life, and it drives me day and night. I thought of nothing else as I continued in my present job, knowing in my heart I was about to jump off that ladder.