Wishes are tricky things.
They are alluring and elusive. They are slippery and hypnotizing. They manage to be both beautiful and repulsive to us, because they are at once everything and nothing at all.
If I had one wish, I’d wish for kids. Five of them—three boys, two girls, all close in age. I’d wish for a house filled with their energy and chaos and noise and love and fun, for early Christmas mornings with floors flooded with boxes and wrapping paper and toys, for vacations to cheesy tourist traps and amusement parks, for game nights with homemade pizza and root beer floats.
This wish is my everything, because it is also my nothing.
Though I am an adoptive mother now, the worst moment of my life, without contest, remains the moment the doctor told us that biological children would be an impossibility for us. That was the moment that my dream of five biological children evaporated into a wish. Dreams are achievable. Wishes…not so much. By definition, wishes are impossible things. They cannot come into being without magic or miracles or a genie to help bring them to pass.
I spent these past two months directing the local high school production of Disney’s Aladdin Jr., a show all about wishes. I thought it was a smash—I was literally crying with pride as I watched the final performance—and when it was all over, when the set was torn down and the costumes put away, I felt as though some secret wish inside of me, one that I didn’t even know that I had, had been granted.
I think we all wish for personal greatness. Whether we admit it or not, I think we all wish to be noticed, for our talents to be acknowledged and put to use. I’ll be the first to admit that this was my own (selfish) wish for the show: to achieve greatness, for people to notice, enjoy, and acknowledge the work that I had done.
But there was another secret wish buried deeper within me, and I did not even realize it was there until I was lying in bed that closing night, bawling my eyes out as I read the sweet, sweet notes I had gotten from the kids in the show.
My wish had always been to make theirs come true.
We all wish for personal greatness, and these kids were no exception. These kids wanted to be great, and my wish was to excavate those diamonds in the rough, to mine that greatness out of them, to hone their talent and show it to the world.
Talent is fragile. Mining for it means slaying the demons of self-doubt and public opinion, because exposing it requires kids to be tremendously courageous and vulnerable. This kind of mining involves significant investments of time and energy and support and love, because kids will only permit those they deem worthy to enter the mines to search.
I made my investments.
I entered those mines.
And I was completely blown away by what I found there.
I found something good, something sparkly inside of every kid in that show. I emerged again and again from those mines with handfuls of magic, and when I dumped all of the glitter and gold that I had found into a heap at their feet, the shimmer of sparkles covered us all, and we were transformed by their glory.
We saw each other—and ourselves—in a new and radiant light.
“Look at this,” I got to say to them, scooping into my hands the proof of their greatness. “Look at all of the good that I found within you.”
And while I didn’t realize it at the time, those kids were doing the same thing for me.
They were entering the rough landscape of my soul and chipping away at the flecks of glitter they found lodged there. As I worked to draw gold from them, they worked to draw it from me. Together, we sifted through the grit and silt and muck within one another until we found those glittering sparkles. Together, we held up our findings up to one another and together, we affirmed, “Yes, there is goodness in you. Look, I found it. Here it is.”
Together, we made something magical out of our combined greatness, and the whole we created was even greater than the sum of any of our sparkling parts.
It has been beautiful to be one half of this reciprocal and symbiotic relationship: to both experience the payoff of a successful performance and witness that spark of confidence and pride ignite within those kids. I watched this show grow and change and transform from script to story to magic, and when it finally came into being, I was so, so proud.
It was a wish come true in so, so many ways.
I got to give birth to something.
And I had birthed something so much more than just a show, magical as it was. I also made a new family. Instead of five kids, I got forty of them, and their love and teamwork and talent made me proud. I got to feel that auditorium surge with their energy and chaos and noise and love and fun. We found goodness in one another. We recognized and affirmed each other’s greatness, and we all left that show a little brighter as a result.
They gave me flowers and hugs and thanks and praise. I received dozens of notes that brought me to tears, filled with words that were heartfelt, transparent, generous, thoughtful, and kind. I’m not sure I’ve ever felt so seen and loved and appreciated, so accomplished or proud. They poured out their love and appreciation upon me, and I was drenched in it.
So wishes can, in a way, come true, as long as we open ourselves to possibility and interpretation.
I feel so blessed that I was both the instrument and recipient of such greatness and love.