A California college student has done something very unusual this holiday season. She recently posted an ad on Craigslist, asking to rent a family this month.
Jackie Turner, who comes from a broken home, writes in her advertisement:
"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."
It's more than just a cute Craigslist ad, though. Her story is inspirational.
"On the outside, it looks like I'm the American dream kid," the 26-year-old said. "But I have a back story that most people wouldn't believe if they looked at me today."
Jackie was physically, sexually and emotionally abused since she was a child. She spent years living on the streets to avoid it, but this meant more problems.
"I was in gang life, on the streets, fighting, doing drugs, just making a mess of my life," she said, adding that she was arrested for grand theft in Sacramento.
After spending nearly a year in jail, she'd had enough. She went to a camp for troubled young adults in Grass Valley called Christian Encounter Ministries.
Now she's a presidential scholar at William Jessup University with a scholarship and a 4.0 grade point average. An incredible turnaround, to be sure.
Still, she adds, "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 want to rent a mom and dad."
She'll pay $8/hour, too.
"Just to sit, just to listen," she said. "Just to cry with me, no strings beyond that. I've never felt the touch of my Mom hugging me and holding me."
Heartbreakingly, she adds that "I don't know what it's like to look in my dad's eyes and feel love instead of hatred," and just wants to feel loved.
Dozens of families responded to the ad, all willing to take her in for free. There also was an entirely different group of people that contacted her"
"People who have been raped, people who have been abused, people who have been passed on from foster home to foster home saying the same things."
Those emails brought more horrible stories.
"I had a pretty horrible upbringing," one person who responded said. Another read, "For me it took half my life to come to terms with my childhood."
But this also brought her some validation. For the first time Jackie isn't alone with her feelings of abandonment. Instead, she feels support and empowerment.
"These tears that are here and the things that I feel right now, this is just a piece of a face that has experienced a lot. People are out there with the same heart inside of them."
"Some of them with a greater drive then mine."
So instead of renting a family, Jackie Turner is now creating one. She says she hopes to organize a gathering of those who have responded to her ad:
"When you speak up, people start learning that they're not by themselves. Often we lock things inside of ourselves, like a lockbox of our secrets."
"But then you let one out and realize, 'I'm not by myself after all, am I?'"