Early in December I followed the instructions on Day 8 of the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar and made a Wishing Tree in a corner of my front yard. It might surprise you, but I gave it some serious thought before I did it. In the past, doing things that are outside the mainstream have brought me mocking comments or eye rolling from some of the people I know. Then there was the fact that in the past our car had been vandalized with an obscenity, requiring a new paint job. Some of the moonlights in the front yard had been stolen or broken, and there are a few fences and stop signs in the neighbourhood with graffiti on them. I was concerned that I'd be constantly replacing stolen pens and markers and that some people would write rude comments on the wish tags, or use the markers for more graffiti.
I decided to ignore the imagined mockers, and since I had committed to the Acts of Kindness Advent Calendar, I was committed to following through on the Wishing Tree. I would deal with the missing pens and ignore writing that was rude. I didn't think I'd get much response anyway.
Within a few days every concern I had was turned on it's head. Wishes filled the branches of the tree. I wasn't constantly replacing pens, I was constantly adding more blank tags. The comments were generous, thankful and kind, and many brought a tear to my eye. One writer got very enthusiastic about a wish for changes to gun laws and a few days later I noticed someone had crossed out a word that might have offended some. The local media even posted an online video about the tree, expressing the hope that it would become an annual event.
Come the first of January I intended to retire the tree for the season but things have been a bit busy. (My Christmas tree is still in the process of being undecorated.) Yesterday I posted a Thank You and planned to take down the wishes. I hadn't put any tags out for a while and was surprised to discover that people had started writing on the backs of the hanging tags, and some had even torn pages out of notebooks to post their wishes. As you can see in the photo someone got very creative.
I read the tags once more, many of them new to me, and I was touched by the good will, the hopes, the dreams and the longing expressed by people I didn't know, people I had judged, based on the actions of a few. I was overwhelmed by a desire to help, to hug the people dealing with loss and uncertainty, and to thank people for their gratitude ...but the wishes were anonymous. It brought to mind a quote I've come across a number of times "Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." Be kind. It's often an easy thing to do but sometimes it isn't. Sometimes being kind is challenge when someone is treating you unkindly. The quote reminded me that you never know what's going on behind the scenes and a little kindness can make a big difference in the lives of those who are struggling.
I couldn't bring myself to take the wishes off the tree. It just didn't feel like they belonged to me and by taking them down I felt I was taking away the chance for the wishes to come true. I'm not sure what the next step will be for the Wishing Tree, but I'm sure my wish to figure something out will come true.