THE BLOG
12/20/2013 05:39 pm ET Updated Feb 19, 2014

The Craigslist Ad that Changed Christmas

On Christmas, I always try to "win." I create this competition in my mind that I have to purchase -- or make -- the most thoughtful gift for each of my family members every year. Yet it's not so much about the attention or praise I'll receive, but the fact that I genuinely love seeing their faces on Christmas morning as they unwrap their gifts. After seeing them dealing with the stress of their careers while also balancing family life on top of that, I know that they deserve it. They deserve to truly be celebrated and have the spotlight on them for one day -- if not more -- each year.

For me, family always comes first at Christmas. In fact, every year I'm just thankful to be able to spend Christmas with a family at all. When I was an infant, I was adopted in Jakarta, Indonesia by my parents, so I'm extremely grateful to be able to share my Christmas mornings -- and in general, my life -- with an incredible group of people who mean the world to me. Honestly, I often forget that I am not blood-related to the white skinned, brown-haired Irish and English individuals who I call family. However, it only takes one of them towering over me in our family reunion photos (I'm Asian and 5'1) for me to snap back to reality.

So, naturally, I was completely taken with a story recently published about a California college student who didn't ask for clothes, a new iPhone, or anything remotely similar to the items most likely written down on all of our Christmas lists this year. Instead, 26-year-old William Jessup University Student, Jackie Turner, posted a Craigslist ad for something out of the ordinary: a family.

The ad, which has since been taken down, read "I am looking to rent a mom and dad who can give me attention and make me feel like the light of their life just for a couple of days because I really need it."

Turner, who told News10 that she had been sexually and emotionally abused as a child, fled home when she was young to escape her troubled life. She was later arrested for grand theft in Sacramento County and spent almost a year in jail, later deciding to turn her life around. She attended Christian Encounter Ministries in Grass Valley, Ca., which says to have "been dedicated to the purpose of reclaiming damaged young people for more than forty years" on its website.

After attending CEM, Turner later made her way to William Jessup where she now attends with a scholarship and a 4.0 GPA. All she asked for on her ad was a mom and dad who she could "rent" for a few days, offering to pay them $8 an hour for their time. If that's not heart melting, then I'm not sure what is.

"I was in gang life, on the streets, fighting, doing drugs, just making a mess of my life,"

Turner told News10, "There's still something deep inside of me. There's this void, my biological parents aren't here, and it's kept this hole inside of me."

I can't imagine the pain and obstacles Turner has experienced throughout her life, and I definitely wouldn't even try to. However I do often wonder what it could have been like encountering the holidays without a family to be there for me. As a college student preparing to graduate in the spring, I also know how easy it is to forget how much my family actually does for me.

Attending university, we, as students, experience this new sense of independence, and are challenged by responsibilities we didn't have when we were living at home. Yet when finals come to an end, and the thought of winter break is upon us, it's easy to slip back into that mold that we created when we were in high school. I know that personally, I have been guilty of pulling the "What's for dinner?" and "Would you mind doing my laundry?" lines when I come home for vacation. However, I want to change that this year. I wouldn't be as hardworking without my mother, as outgoing and passionate without father, and I definitely would not be as patient as I am today without my brother.

Turner's emotional story has truly affected how I'm viewing Christmas this year, and I hope her words are able to reach out to other college students throughout the nation and the world. So, with the holidays in full swing, I ask everyone to take a moment to think about Turner and what you're truly celebrating this year. Christmas only lasts for a day and the tacky light tours, the eggnog and the presents under the tree will come and go. Hold on to and think of your family. And do it year-round.