Over 100 people have left notes during the past week in the Santa Maria Public Library, which decided to forgo the usual Christmas ornaments this holiday season and instead ask community members to decorate a tree with wishes.
Since Nov. 24, the library has been host to a ‘wishing tree,’ where library visitors can write anonymous notes. The notes, which are attached to gold-colored ribbons are then hung on the tree branches.
In the week since the tree has been up, there have been over 100 notes left, said Joanne Britton, a member of the library staff.
There have been so many notes hung on the tree that the library added two more trees, Britton said. “There has been a huge response and we wanted to give everyone a chance to share their wishes.”
The 4-foot tall trees — which are white with small LED lights along each of branches — are arranged with two on the ground and one in the middle that’s been elevated. Next to the trees are two baskets full of notecards and pens for library patrons to use.
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The notes, which Britton said have come from people of all ages, ranging from the heartbreaking to the whimsical. “I hope me and my family get out of the shelter quick and get a new home,” read one card.
“I have a dream there will be real fighting boxing robots,” read another notecard.
Several children used the opportunity to wish for parents to recover from illnesses.
Britton said reading the wishes has been a moving experience. “I think pretty much all of us — all of the library staff — have been brought to tears because there are so many truly heartfelt wishes. It’s pretty clear that there are members of the community that are going through things that a lot of us have never experienced, like homelessness or being ill. But there’s a lot of really light-hearted ones too — kids want dogs and cats and so forth.”
The wishing tree — which Britton expects to become an annual tradition going forward — was inspired by a similar tree library director Mary Housel saw while visiting a library in Southern California. Housel brought the idea to library staff who got on board.
“We thought, ‘What a great idea,’” Britton said. “It’s a way for people to put into words what they're looking for so we decided to go ahead. Normally we put up some decorations that are Christmasy or holiday-related and we thought this would be a nice alternative.”
While it’s not clear how long the wishing tree will remain in the library, Britton said it will definitely remain through the new year. “I hope people come on in and tell us their wishes.”
Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @razisyed