As I have every night during my trip, I make my way to St. Valentine’s to read to the boys at their bedtime. But tonight is different. Tonight, in their new beds, they receive something none of them have ever experienced. Tonight they get tucked in. Snuggled into their cozy blankets in a warm, dry bed, the boys are happier than I’ve ever seen them. How many hours have I spent over the years cuddling my 13-year-old son (sometimes against his will) at bedtime? I would say thousands. These kids have had none of that. Tonight that changes.
I make my way from bunk to bunk, spending time with each boy – whether he’s six or sixteen – before I carefully tuck him into his bed with a kiss on the forehead and an “I love you”. I can feel the emotions coming off these little boys in waves and it takes my last ounce of strength to not break down in front of them. One of the smaller boys lies in bed, huddled and shivering, while his new blanket, still in its wrapper, is at his feet.
“Sweetheart, why aren’t you using this?” I ask him.
“I cannot use it,” he explains. “It’s too special.”
“Listen to me,” I say, swallowing the lump in my throat. “You’re too special. You need to use this blanket every night and if something happens to it, we will get you another one.”
I unwrap the blanket and tuck him in. He immediately hides under the covers, suddenly bashful. Is he playing peekaboo? I’m not sure. From beneath the blanket I hear his muffled voice.
“I love you.”
After years of me telling them all how much I love them, I rarely hear it back. I’m not sure this little boy has ever said I love you to another person. With our nightly tuck-in, he is learning to receive and reciprocate affection. He is learning how to love.
My heart aches at the thought of leaving them. I want to tuck them in every night. I want to keep them safe and warm, with a full tummy and fuller heart. I want them to have a better future. I want them to have the opportunity to exceed everyone’s expectations, including their own. These boys are my family.
I invite you to join our family here at St. Valentine’s by clicking here http://bit.ly/1TevlMq. When you make a donation, you become their family and their future. All funds raised will go towards transforming their basic shelter into a home, providing basic medical care and educational needs, and increasing their nutritional intake.
I have big plans for these boys when I return in November and I hope you will be with us every step of the way.