LSS: The crane challenge and beyond

Note to self: the idea of folding 1,000 origami cranes and the act of folding 1,000 origami cranes are two very different things.

One week ago, I decided it would be a nice gesture to fold — with the help of friends — 1,000 cranes to send to a friend in Japan. She is safe in Tokyo, but some of her family is now living in one of the camps in northern Japan. She assured me that if I assemble a senbaruzu (1,000 cranes strung in 25 strands of 40 each), she would see that other friends get it to one of the areas trying to recover from the earthquake, tsunami and now nuclear threat.

Here is the truth.

When I had this idea, I did not know how to make an origami crane, but I knew my 13-year-old daughter did. I bought supplies, and we were off. After five tries with her painstakingly walking me through the process (in the patient way 13-year-old girls have), I got it. I was an origami crane folding fool. Unstoppable.

I started saying a prayer with each crane I folded. The act was incredibly Zen.

I quickly realized that the early folds were critical. As my 9-year-old daughter said, “You get these wrong and it will come back to haunt you.”

She was right.

Her little hands and mine started focusing energy on getting the folds precise and lovely. Each little paper bird became a work of love and art for us.

I recruited friends. They came. They learned. They folded. They recruited friends who also learned the process.

Then I wrote last week’s column about the project. The response has been heartening. As I write this column, I’ve already received boxes, baskets, bags and large envelopes of cranes of all shapes and sizes. One Mississippi Mom sent a box of cranes that she and her daughters folded last week during their spring break. A Girl Scout troop in Texas is sending cranes. A lady in Vermont is sending cranes. And people all over Acadiana are making and sending their cranes.

In case you haven’t figured it out, folding an origami crane is not a simple matter. It takes time, energy and focus.

Then multiply that by 1,000.

A few people, my husband being one, have thought the little project rather ridiculous. Don’t get me wrong. If I’m happy doing it, he supports it, but it hasn’t taken a lot to figure out just how silly he thinks the whole thing is.

I’m pretty sure his exact words were, “Fold them a dollar bill and send it.”

Certainly, he’s right. The people and government of Japan will need financial assistance to recover, and I encourage people to send money however they choose to do so.


I also know that sometimes they need the hopes and prayers of people they have never and will never meet.

Right now, our soon-to-be senbaruzu is at 520 cranes, with about 300 more expected to arrive by the time you read this. I believe we’ll have this thing finished very soon. With each of those cranes is a good intention.

Nearly six years ago when my husband was very, very sick. We weren’t sure he was going to make it. Back then, we were on the receiving end of focused good intentions, prayers and hopes of family and friends from all over. In all likelihood, he will never understand just what those powerful appeals of so many did in getting our family through dark days he doesn’t remember. On the other hand, I could feel the peace, hope and strength that so many people were sending our way.

That experience convinced me that prayers could be a whole lot more powerful than money—and that is why I believe sending 1,000 folded prayers to the other side of the world is not silly.

I believe it is worth the effort.

Note: After completing this column, I learned that Students Rebuild, an initiative of the Bezos Family Foundation in Seattle has pledged $2 toward Japan’s recovery efforts for every crane sent to them. They plan to create an art installation with the cranes. Their organization works to activate our greatest creative resource — young people — to catalyze change on critical issues. As it turns out, our impromptu project will not only garner the hopes and prayers. It will also raise money — a blessing we didn’t expect.

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