I don't know all of you. But I wish I did. When I started my journey into foster care and adoption nearly 9 years ago I had no idea that I would fall in love with thousands of children I would never meet. That might sound cheesy, hard to believe and maybe even a little ridiculous, but it's true. I think about all of you -- as a group, as individuals -- every single day of my life.
I want you to know that you matter. I want you to see past the simplicity and perhaps the overuse of that statement to the heart of what it means. You matter. Your ideas, your talents, your dreams, your wishes...they all matter.
When I built One Simple Wish I did it because I wanted to create a place for you to share those dreams and talents and unique, interesting qualities you possess so that those of us who are fortunate enough to have more love and resources than we know what to do with could share some of that with you. I didn't ever want to be called a hero. (But I do have to say that meeting Anderson Cooper was a real wish come true for me!) I only wanted to make sure that people knew you, that people could find you and that they could do something for you to help heal some of the heartache, to show you some kindness, to show you how much goodness there really is in this world.
I can't imagine what life must feel like when you are separated from everything you know. I can't imagine the pain of feeling like you don't know where you belong. I can't imagine the things you have seen that you should not have had to see, the things that may have happened to you that should not have ever happened to you. I wish I could build a great big house filled with only loving, smart, positive people who could shelter and care for each of you. I know that is a crazy thought, but I'm trying my best by building this virtual village around you.
My heart truly aches for each of you who are not receiving the love and care and opportunity you deserve. And I don't want to fail you. I want to reach every single one of you - those of you who are still in foster care and those of you who left the system days, weeks, months and even years ago. I want to do whatever I can to try to find a connection for you, a person, a group, someone to call on to be the voice in your head that says "don't stop trying" when your own voice fails you.
I want you to know that this organization that I built, I built it for YOU. I want you to use this. I want you to share your simple wishes so we can make sure you don't have to miss out on the things your friends are doing that you so desperately want to do. I want you to have the chance to travel, to stay in touch with your siblings, to dress how you want to dress, to try new things, to learn a new skill, to be beautifully, unapologetically, YOU. I want you to find out who you are and who you want to be.
I know that granting these simple requests isn't bringing you the family that you may need or the job that you are searching for and they won't erase the past trauma you've endured. But I do believe they are a start to so much...to connecting you to something that matters to you, to helping you explore parts of yourself you haven't seen yet, to showing the world that every single one of us does in fact have the power to change the direction of another's life...even if just for a moment.
This is how I believe we will begin to change the conversation around the foster care system in America. It must be a subject we all feel a part of. It must be a topic that every American can feel connected to. It must be humanized and it must be presented in a way that sparks conversation AND action -- not just sympathy and outrage.
So to each of you out there -- let me try to help. Speak up. Share your wishes with us. Show the world that who you are is so much more than what has been done to you. And then let them in a little. Let me in a little. And I promise you, I will spend my whole life trying to reach all of you.