When I first read about 8-year-old Gabriel’s wish to be a park ranger at Yosemite, it was long before I would be an intern at Make-A-Wish. I was immediately interested in the wish, which was shared on Yosemite National Park’s Facebook page, because I’ve been drawn to national parks since I was a child, when family vacations always included a park or two … or three or four, if my mom was behind the wheel.
I felt an instant appreciation for Gabriel, whose wish didn’t involve a video game or a fancy vacation to a faraway place -- instead, he chose to spend his time as a public service worker on land that he can call his own. He chose to be outdoors, helping people grow to love the land as much as he does, educating on the trails, rivers and streams that I have grown to love.
Thinking about Gabriel spending his day with park rangers takes me back to hot summers stuffed between my two brothers in our ugly green van with the sliding door that sometimes had to be tied shut on highways because it would open on its own accord, speeding along the highway to our next park, where we’d enroll in the Junior Ranger program and begin our journey around the park climbing, searching for rocks and getting covered in mud and dust. All to earn the coveted Junior Ranger badges that now decorate a wall of my bedroom in my childhood home.
Gabriel’s wish reminds me of family, fun, summer and laughing around a campfire eating s’mores with my sunburnt family after a long day of spending time together. It feels like chasing fireflies with my brothers and riding our bikes around the trails. It’s laughing in our tent so loud that my dad is yelling at us to be quiet, defeating the purpose of his message entirely.
To me, wishes are not only about creating new memories, but invoking old ones, too. I am grateful for stumbling across Gabriel’s wish months ago, because without it I might not be sitting here typing this today.