Vanessa Sabarese was, one particular holiday season, overwhelmed by sadness and needed something to help her see the glass half full. As generous and loving a spirit as Vanessa is, she thought that bringing joy to others would bring some happiness to her. Understatement times ten! The Wishing Tree went into annual bloom.
Here’s how it went. First her landlord filled the tree with lights. Then Vanessa put two empty jars at the base of the tree, one labeled “wish” and the other filled with sturdy tags and colored pens and a sign that says, “Welcome to the wishing tree, please make a wish and place your wish inside the jar that says ‘wish’ and in the next few days you will find your wish on the tree.” The magic took hold. People flock to the tree where they can, in anonymous safety, give voice to what they may not speak out loud. Vanessa collects the wishes at the end of each day, laminates them and fastens each to the tree with sparkly ribbons. Then people swarm back to sift through the thick drapery of wishes to find their own.
Vanessa, who at first remained anonymous out of her own shyness, now makes herself visible at the tree when she can and finds the tree is more laden with the fruit of people’s hopes than ever she imagined. She has gone from 2 to 12 wishes a week to 70 wishes a day. She laughs as she says, “Be careful what you wish for.” The Wishing Tree became a meeting place where wishes spark rich conversations, love, and hope for the possible and the impossible. How do the neighbors feel about the traffic and commotion now that this tree is a public place now on Google Maps and featured in a video game? They feel fine. They know it is something that lets people bond over love and hope.
Listen to Vanessa talk about her life that led to this complicated and mesmerizing journey. Her love letter is kind of a wish in itself and maybe an example to many about allowing one’s self the luxury of love.