Pathways through Lent

Weekday reflections from St. John’s in the season of Lent.

Wednesday in the Fourth Week of Lent: March 13, 2024

The Wishing Tree

 One day a few years ago, when I was ambling in San Francisco, I came across The Wishing Tree. It was a low ornamental tree on a quiet residential street. Under it was a table with pens, cards, ribbons, and an invitation to make a wish and to tie it to the tree. The public was encouraged to read any of the hundreds of cards dangling on the tree.

“I wish my Mama is cancer free,” one read. “I want Jeremy to come home,” said another. “I want a puppy.” “I wish I was a leopard.” “I wish for more of you.” And my favorite, “I wish I was young again and know what I know now.”

I was immediately touched by the simplicity and humanity of the wishes on the tree. Later, I was even more impressed thinking about what was not there. Few of the writers wished for money or success, and there were almost no political wishes beyond the hope for world peace. My encounter with the tree led me into an ongoing consideration of the things I wish for: of what is attainable, what is worthwhile, what will frustrate, what can bring peace.

I certainly do not have it figured out, but one thing is certain: we expend considerable time and energy striving for the wrong things. When our wishes come true, sometimes we are dissatisfied or immediately wish for something different. When I think about the lessons of the wishing tree, I am drawn to the traditional Buddhist prayer simply related by Thich Nhat Hanh:

May all beings be happy.
May all beings be free from pain and suffering.
May all beings live with ease and well-being.
May all beings be free.

Livy More
Pathways Editor

"The Wishing Tree"
Pathways through Lent
Photo © Livy More

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