It started as a simple project in the month of December. I was getting daily emails encouraging me to complete acts of kindness throughout the season of Advent – and one of them was to create a “wishing tree”. So I did. I went to Target and purchased a few cheap ornaments and a bucket of gift tags that were sturdy cardboard. I recruited my children and husband to help make signs to hang on the tree that said, “Make a Wish (and hang it on our tree)”. And then I put up a wish of my own and waited.
After several days my solitary wish tag was starting to depress me. So I did what any good mother would do – I forced my children to participate. They each wrote a wish and hung it on the tree. Now there were four tags fluttering in the breeze.
And then one day I looked out the window and some people were gathered around the tree reading our wishes. It felt a little bit voyeuristic – to watch them reading about my family’s wishes. But then they pulled the marker and a few tags out of the bucket and wrote out wishes of their own. I can’t quite describe the joy I felt at seeing complete strangers add wishes to our tree. It felt like we were suddenly connected even though we’d never actually met. And since then, more and more tags have been added to the tree. Some of them are written on tags that clearly did not come from our bucket – which means that people have walked by, seen the tree, thought about their wishes, and come back specifically to hang them on the tree.
Here are a few examples:
- For all kids in Northfield to have access to music lessons
- I wish for hope
- That people with alcohol and drug problems get the help they seek
- To find the strength to do what is right
- I wish to always be sincere
- I wish that nothing got in my way
- I wish for understanding and tolerance
- Mathias’ grandma is ok
- Peace on earth
- I wish I could get more hours to have gas $ to see my son more
Taking the tree down doesn’t really seem like an option anymore. Who am I to take someone’s wish away? Instead – I think it’s more important to put the wishes out in the universe and see if some of them can’t be made to come true.
What does any of this have to do with Growing Up Healthy and our mission to build social connectedness? In my mind, part of building strong connections is being willing to take a risk and share some vulnerability. I certainly felt vulnerable having a giant, labeled tree in my front yard that was hosting only my own wish. But as it has grown – so have the connections that I feel to my neighbors and others who happen to wander through my neighborhood. And I suspect that it can lead to other connections, too. Maybe someone will read this and come find the tree just to feel connected. Maybe someone will decide to create a wish tree in his/her own neighborhood. Or maybe someone will read a wish on the tree and help to make it come true.
Whatever happens, I’m not taking the tree down. So come find it on the west side of Northfield and share your wish. Who knows? Maybe yours will be the one that comes true!