Thursday, December 12, 2013

College student Jackie Turner turns to Craigslist to "rent a family" for the holidays - she ends up finding a new one.

ROCKLIN - A William Jessup University student has done something very strange - she has posted an ad on Craigslist, asking to rent a family for the holiday season.

The ad, written by Jackie Turner, reads, "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."

To say Turner comes from a broken home would be an understatement.

"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 has been physically, sexually and emotionally abused since she was a child. To escape it she spent years living on the streets, which in turn created even more problems.

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

Turner was eventually arrested for grand theft in Sacramento County. After spending nearly a year in jail she decided 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 with a scholarship and a 4.0 grade point average.

But, like she said, that's what you see on the outside.

"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."

That's where the ad comes in, with the headline, "I want to rent a mom and dad."

She noted she'd be willing be pay $8 an hour.

"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. I don't know what it's like to look in my dad's eyes and feel love instead of hatred."

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 and that she didn't expect to hear from.

"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 said. Another read, "For me it took half my life to come to terms with my childhood." But with those awful words there was also validation.

For the first time Jackie isn't alone with her feelings of abandonment.

"People are afraid to open their mouths and say, 'This hurts, this sucks'," she said, crying.

"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."

Instead of renting a family, Jackie is now creating one. 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?'"