It could be argued that throughout the month of January, conversations across the world have more in common than perhaps any other month. The perennial,“New Year, New Me” goals dominate thoughts, questions, conversations, and letters amongst friends, families, and co-workers. Despite our best efforts, it’s very difficult sticking to these resolutions. I’m personally guilty of this; I am still no expert in Spanish, a master of the Two-Step, or as sharp in my tennis game as I’d like to be.
As January comes and goes, so do many of our conversations focused on our goals for the year. Maybe it’s because we’ve simply given up on our personal goals and don’t want to bring up that topic, or maybe it’s because we think that conversation is only reserved for one month of the year. Whatever the reason may be, it seems that we lose something as a society when February comes and we pivot our conversations from a place of commonality and we start talking again about divisive politics, chilly weather, and sports.
This spirit of connecting with others is what drove Merced’s own Matthew Broadley to start a world-wide discovery to inquire about what people wished for no matter their race, gender, or where they lived. Upon embarking on this quest, he wondered the simple yet profound question, ‘do society's wishes have more in common or more separating them?’ A thirteen-year-old Matthew was about to find out over the course of the next three years.
In his seventeen years, Matthew has lived a full life and has quite the full resume before he even begins college. Born in Ukraine and adopted at 18 months by James and Mindy Broadley, Matthew has lived many different places on this globe from Southern California to the East Coast to Merced. He’s been fortunate to travel to even more countries with his mom as she was a Director for the group Young Americans, a musical program for children across the globe.
As a young teenager, he noticed that there wasn’t one particular passion in his life that made him excited every day. Even with a calendar full of hobbies and activities, he had yet to find that one thing that would motivate him throughout each day. “There were people in my life that had various passions and loves. I realized that I didn’t have that yet, that one passion of mine. I wished I knew what my passion was and wanted to know what it was that I’d be interested in all day long. [I started] wishing for a passion and wondered, ‘was I the only person that wished for a passion? Do other teenagers feel this way? What do adults wish for? What do other people wish for?’ I wanted to see what other people around the world were wishing, what the meaning was in a wish.”
This longing led him to the idea of jotting down the hopes of people he met everywhere he went and his search had no boundaries. Over the course of three years, he collected 1,000 wishes from people ages two to 102 across 50 states and over 60 countries. He spoke to everyday people on the street that he had never met and asked them a deeply personal question, “what do you wish for?” He asked people that he knew and even sought out public figures. Fun fact: he reached out to famous people such as the Pope, the Queen, President Obama. A standout figure that responded to him with a personalized note was Barbara Bush!
As Matthew received more and more wishes, he unearthed a simple, yet profound truth - “there’s a lot more that connects us as people than what separates us.”
This idea of his that was formed from self-reflection ultimately led to him creating a book made up of the wishes he collected. The book titled 1,000 Wishes, took a year for him to create and self-publish. To date, he’s sold several hundred copies, and grade school students have even used his book for book reports!
While Matthew’s life and wish adventure have taken him across the world, to him, Merced is home. He’s lived 5 of his 17 years here and enjoys the small-town life. He can claim that Merced has contributed to the growth of him as a leader. A few years ago, he became involved with the Building Young Leaders program and along with his group, started the Promise Merced campaign, which brought leaders together to project more positive thoughts of Merced. Matthew’s thankful for how Merced has supported his growth and says that “it doesn’t take a big city with lots of connections to make an impact” and he’s proof that “someone from a small town can accomplish a lot.” His advice to other young Mercedians is this: “see what you can do with not much and see how far it takes you, because there’s a lot of opportunities here that people don’t realize.” Merced is also a place for fun in Matthew’s life. He lights up when talking about working out at the Crossfit studio on 15th St., he longboards in town, attends youth group at Yosemite Church, sails, and even takes Boutique Air to fly to Los Angeles for acting gigs (his biggest role to date is on Boardwalk Empire).
The opportunities that Matthew has had in Merced have helped to shape him, but more than that, he gives credit to his family for the support that they give him. “My family has been a big influence in not only supporting me, but in giving me the opportunities, head start, and guidance to pursue my activities.”
Writing this book not only taught Matthew more about the world, it’s geography, it’s people, and its culture, but as he heard and recorded each unique wish, he said he was surprised at how willing people were to open up, and that what people revealed was eye opening and humbling. As wishes were shared, he noticed that “Race and sex don’t matter when you focus on the wishes.” It comes down to “just about who they are at the core. And we all experience the same things as humans.”
Do you know what it is that your friends and family truly wish for this year? What about the strangers in our Merced community that you have yet to meet. What could you learn about someone as you stand in line at ASIP, order your bagel at Bagel Tyme, wait for a table Bella Luna, or as you pass people on their morning walks? What if we started our own wish movement in Merced County to drive more positivity throughout our towns? Offer someone the moment to speak about themselves and learn a bit more about what motivates them. Let Matthew’s curious question be an inspiration for you to reach out to others to give them a moment to shine a light on something in their life.
Go to 1000wishes.global to learn more about Matthew and to order his book, 1,000 Wishes.