So tell me about the wishing tree.
My family and I started one back in Norfolk and it started as something really simple. We all put it up and put a couple wishes on, not really knowing how everyone was going to react to it. And the next morning when we woke up, there were at least 50 or 60 wishes on the tree and it was crazy because we didn’t really know what to expect from it and when we went to read the wishes, it was absolutely incredible. There were people wishing for everything from dogs to live forever, for their husbands to come home from deployment, for their friends to get into medical school – just really heartfelt. We were really blown away by it. It kept growing. By the end of the week, we had close to 200 tags. Just seeing the reaction from the community was really incredible. And I wanted to bring that to William and Mary and how much hope and comfort and joy it brought to us and the community. I wanted to bring that here because William and Mary means so much to me and I wanted to do something, but I didn’t really know how. We started it [in Norfolk] right after the shootings in Orlando and for us, it was overwhelming and we just really wanted to kind of find some sort of good. We wanted to believe that there was more good than evil in the world, and that our community believed in that. And they did! The wishing tree was really successful there and I wanted to try it here at William and Mary. So I put up the tree this past weekend and put up about 5 wishes. I picked Sadler because I wanted it to be a place everyone could access and see it and visit it. I didn’t really know what to expect, I went in with an open mind. The next night when I went to visit it, it had 173 tags. I read every single one and they’re all absolutely incredible. My whole thing with the tree is that I really wanted to know that there’s more hope than fear and more good than bad. I wanted our community here to know that we have each other, that maybe these wishes can remind us that we have this amazing capacity to love each other and the world we share in spite of all of the terrible things we see. That we still wish and hope for a better tomorrow. It was really incredible to see how much of our community believes in that, and how honest and genuine the wishes are. A majority of the wishes are wishes for each other. You know, “I hope we all have a good semester.” “I hope my friend beats depression.” “I hope my dad goes into remission.” All these different wishes and it’s really cool to see how much we have in common and how much good we want in the world. It’s really incredible to see the outpour of reactions coming from it.
Have you read all of them?
Right now it’s starting to get a little hard. I add a couple rings to it each day and they’re filling up pretty quickly. A lot of the wishes are really funny. One person wished for more pugs in the world and one was “I wish I could eat grilled cheese forever.” Some really crack me up.
But then there are others that are—
Really deep and heartfelt. And it’s really incredible how much a lot of people here wish for the good for each other. And another reason why I wanted to bring it here – the community that we have at William and Mary is really incredible and really welcoming and I’ve definitely felt that. But for those who don’t feel that yet, I’d encourage them to go visit the tree because just standing there and reading some wishes, it kind of gives you a sense that you’re not really alone and that there are other people out there who have the same wishes as you. We all have fears, dreams, and worries, even if we don’t always say them out loud, and the tree is a way to put that in writing in an anonymous way. Sometime life gets chaotic and stressful, we tend to forget that every one of us is dealing with something difficult, some heavier than others, but I don’t want to forget that we’re all in this together. I guess that’s what I really wanted to bring with the wishing tree, a small reminder that you’re not an island. That we have to look out for each other and lift each other up when life gets heavy. And it’s really opened my eyes to how much good we have in our community and even if it gives someone a small moment of peace or comfort, that’s what I want at the end of the day. It’s not my tree, it’s everyone’s tree. I’ll take care of it and replenish the supplies as needed but I want it to be everyone’s tree and something everyone can share. If it can bring someone a little bit of joy or laughter or comfort or relieve a little bit of stress, then that’s completely worth it, whether it’s one person or a hundred, that’s the biggest thing at the end of the day.
It’s been getting a lot of attention. People love it!
I really didn’t know! I thought, you know, it might get 10 or 15 [wishes] but the next day, the rings were all filled up. But yeah, at first it was for me, just to know that we can all find common ground with each other despite all of our differences. In spite of all the chaos going on and all the ugliness, that there is more good than bad, that there is more hope than fear, and our capacity to still love this world around us and each other. And the biggest thing I’ve seen with this is how much people really want to believe in each other. They want to believe that the world still has good in it and they want to be the good. It’s really made my heart full. I’m pretty overwhelmed every time I visit. I always have to take a moment to take it all in. And I really try to read every single one. It’s getting a little harder but I really try every night to read every single one and I hope they all come true. The thing is, we make wishes during our birthdays when we’re little kids. But then we get older and we tend to stop wishing and think it’s only for little kids. These wishes are simple hope, you know? It’s hoping that things are going to come true, that things are going to get better, and I never want us to stop wishing. I never want us to stop believing in each other and the good of tomorrow. And I hope this tree will maybe be a little reminder of that.
What are you going to do with all of the wishes once the tree is full?
I don’t know, I’m trying to keep it going for as long as I can. It’s filling up pretty quickly so I’m going to have to come up with some sort of strategy.
A second tree?
Maybe! I might! I keep adding the twine to it and tying around it but it’s filling up pretty quickly and I was not expecting this! It’s so exciting though! But yeah, it’s really cool. But the cool thing about it is I don’t know how long it’s going to last. If it lasts for a few days or if it lasts for a week or a year, I think that’s the beauty of it. Because we don’t really know, in a bigger picture, how long things are going to last so we have to enjoy them while we have them. And same thing with a wish. We send our wish out into the world and hope it comes true and I think we just have to keep that hope in our heart that it’ll be there and to never stop wishing.
So what has William and Mary and the community here meant to you?
So much. I fell in love with this community. I knew a lot of people from the rugby team and they were so welcoming from day 1, from the day I stepped onto this campus. Throughout the years, I’ve met some of the most compassionate, incredible, brilliant, kind human beings here. And I wanted to do something for them. I didn’t really know how, and what we did back in Norfolk – we really loved our community there and we wanted to do something for them. And I wanted to try to repeat that here. I saw how much comfort it brought others and I wanted to bring that here. This community is incredible and what we have here is really special. I just really hope that it’s done some sort of good.
It’s been a really good thing on campus. I’ve had so many conversations about the wishing tree. People are just loving it.
It’s really cool when I walk by. I try not to visit when everyone is there because I want everyone to make their wishes. Seeing people laughing and smiling, that’s huge. Especially with exams coming up and all the stress is about to kick in and, you know, if the tree is still around, I want that to be maybe a small getaway. It can be maybe a small escape. It’s really worth it. I’m overwhelmed with the reaction from it. It’s incredible.
Yeah! And hopefully we can keep this going. Maybe next year and the year after that we can keep it going. It could be a continuous thing.
I would love that. Maybe a tradition – that would be really cool. William and Mary loves their traditions!