We received a letter from a wish kid who doubted what a wish could do to help him in his journey. He wrote it immediately after his wish experience, inviting readers into some very powerful thoughts that illuminate why wishes matter. He asked us to remove his name – a struggle with a critical illness like cancer is often a private matter that’s hard to discuss publicly. But he wanted to share his thoughts on how his thinking about the benefits of a wish changed. Here's what he had to say:
Last night, my family and I returned home from our trip to Boston, and while I was sorting through my stuff, I found the Make-A-Wish bead I received before the trip. Included with the bead is a card that reads:
"Your wish has been granted! A wish experience is often more than a dream come true. Frequently, it's a source of inspiration, a positive force that helps you overcome obstacles and a voice of encouragement which reminds you that you can believe in yourself! The Make-A-Wish bead is your reminder of your wish and the joy you and your family experienced."
Honestly, before the trip, I had never fully believed this message. I thought it was an unrealistic, idealistic exaggeration, cheesy and even meant mostly for younger kids. I wasn't sure how a wish, at my age, could be "more than a dream come true ... a source of inspiration ... a voice of encouragement." Seemed too good to be true, and perhaps it was due to the cynicism that sometimes comes with growing up, but I had modest expectations. As you know, it took me a very long time to decide on a wish, primarily due to my own predisposition to extreme indecisiveness. I also struggled a lot with the idea that I didn't "deserve" the wish, that I didn't actually do anything to necessitate a wish. So my inherent indecisiveness, coupled with this underlying "guilt" in having a wish that I didn't feel I needed or deserved, resulted in inaction. I had almost forgotten about the wish.
But now, sitting here in a small coffee shop in Atlanta, slowly piecing together these words, reflecting on this past weekend, I realized ... the message included with the Make-A-Wish bead ... it's true. It's all true.
My wish was to meet Justin Vernon of the band Bon Iver, one of my favorite bands and a source of creative inspiration to me through the last few years. It seemed pretty simple, and although I was extremely excited (and nervous), the actual experience far surpassed my expectations. Justin was so friendly and kind, and was so committed with making the experience truly memorable before, during, and after. Actually, everyone involved with Bon Iver and the Boston Calling music festival was so accommodating and kind, it was beautiful. My sister and brother had so much fun, and even my dad, who had never attended a music festival before and didn't know much about it, had a very positive experience and only had great things to say.
One example of how amazing the experience was: that night, about 2/3 of the way through Bon Iver's performance, Justin turned off all the lights and came to the front of the stage with a single guitar and called me about by name before performing "Skinny Love," one of his most recognizable and well-known songs, in front of the entire festival crowd. It was one of the most surreal experiences of my life. I still can't believe it actually happened. And then to top it off, after I arrived home last night, I realized that Justin had sent me a handwritten postcard before we had even flown to Boston, saying how excited he was to meet me. I am so overwhelmed by all the aspects of the experience, and I will definitely remember and cherish this past weekend for the rest of my life.
For so long, I had been preoccupied with the idea that I should "give away" my wish to a child in greater need than I, to fulfill a perceived obligation to help someone else in need. But I've realized, my college trajectory has already been working toward that goal.
This summer, I'm working in a nanomedicine lab [at Emory] where we're developing nanoparticle-based technologies for targeted drug delivery for cancer therapy, as well as techniques to perform early detection for Alzheimer's disease. I originally decided to pursue Biomedical Engineering in college due to my own experiences undergoing medical treatment, recognizing a responsibility to use my passions for healthcare and engineering to help others who may be going through what I myself experienced. This wish experience has only further solidified this goal of mine, and has been a potent reminder of why I have chosen to pursue this career path.
I am so, so, so grateful and forever thankful for this experience, and for all the effort everyone at Make-A-Wish put into providing this experience for both me and my family.
I now understand, truly understand, the purpose of this organization and the amazing work you do. This is something I'll cherish forever, and I lack the words to properly express my gratitude.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
This is a perfect example of a skeptic’s path – question, doubt and wonder, but be willing to change your mind through personal experience. This is a must-read for anyone who doubts what a wish can do for their child, their patient or themselves.
Convinced? You can start the wish referral process today.
Photo by Loreen Kelley