NORFOLK, Va. – Situated on the median of a West Ghent neighborhood, you’ll see hundreds of tags fluttering from an old cedar tree.
“It brings me to my knees, some of the raw honesty people share,” said wishing tree creator Suzanne Sherman.
“I wish we could play our soccer game in October.” “I wish for snow and a gramma [grandmother].” “I wish COVID would disappear” – those are just some of the many wishes hanging from the tree.
The concept is known as a “wishing tree.” The one on Redgate Avenue was started by Suzanne Sherman in 2016.
But Sherman doesn’t want any attention on her; instead, she wants it placed on the hopes, pleas and dreams that hang from the tree.
“My best friend and I went to California a few years ago, we drove though an L.A. neighborhood and saw this tree,” she said. “I stumbled upon a tree and I was struck by its organic beauty. It was stunning.”
Sherman said the tree and its messages brought her peace, so she wanted to bring the idea home.
“The terrorist attack happened in Paris, then the attack on Pulse nightclub. I was becoming overwhelmed with violence and the way our world was becoming, and I knew it wasn’t just me,” Sherman explained.
Her idea of the wishing tree took off.
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“The next day, there were two or three wishes, then it just sort of happened,” she said. “I just wanted people to have a place to put their thoughts,” said Sherman.
Many of the wishes are written by children.
“It gives them a voice, and some of their wishes are so touching. They want things back the way that they knew them – simple things like the pool reopening, seeing friends, seeing grandparents,” she said.
Many of the original tags hang tattered, weathered from the years, but the tree is now seeing a rebirth.
From the pandemic to protests throughout the world, many people are scrawling their thoughts at the wishing tree.
“It brings out empatpandemichy, makes us understand other people’s wishes and struggles, and I think empathy is something right now we need more than ever,” she said. “We all just want some of the same things right now: Love, peace and kindness; it is all very simple.”
Sherman doesn’t live in the neighborhood anymore, but she often stops by to read the wishes.
“I hope it continues as long as people want or need it to. It’s a peaceful place,” she said.
If you would like to write a wish or stop by the wishing tree, it is located at Regate Avenue and Matoaka Street.