Inspired by the teachings of Mother Teresa our family gathered with fellow homeschoolers to tour the local homeless shelter. What we saw inspired us to look beyond ourselves and find a way to make a difference.
A month or so before Christmas 2012 the new Mid-Maine Homeless Shelter opened its doors. We made an appointment with then director, Betty Palmer, to tour the new facility. Betty's excitement about the new building, her compassion for those she served, and her desire to inspire our children to give to those less fortunate was inspiring. Betty shared with us the history of the shelter and walked us around the facility showing us the bedrooms, the kitchen, the bathrooms, and even the supply closet, where the donations were kept and organized. The kids had many questions, which she answered wholly and honestly. The drive home was mostly silent. The kids were processing all they had heard and seen.
That night, as Joe and I made the rounds tucking in the children, we began talking about what nights must be like for the kids at the shelter. Were they being snuggled into bed with a warm blanket? Were they being read a bedtime story? Did they feel safe enough to fall asleep? Did they have someone gently whispering to them, "Good night. Sweet Dreams."? We explained the different reasons people need shelters, and as we tried to hit home the hardships homeless people face every day, our children began offering suggestions on how we could help.
Their ideas were simple. First, they were adamant that the children be given some sort of bag of their very own to hold any items we would give and any belongings they already owned. Secondly, they wanted to give the children staying in the shelter things that would comfort them and make them feel loved as they settled down to sleep. Excitement was in the air; everyone was now wide awake, offering suggestions and talking over one another. As the ideas swirled about the room, Sweet Dreams Bags was born.