LSS: Looking for our fast friends in Japan

Faithful readers will recall our March effort to fold 1,000 origami cranes to send to Japan. In Japan, 1,000 cranes strung in 25 strands of 40 creates a senbazuru, which represents hope and recovery.
Our family’s effort quickly gained momentum. For the five days before we mailed the cranes, someone was knocking on our door every hour or so throughout the day and evening dropping off bags of cranes.
If you’ve ever tried to fold a crane, you know those were little bags of love.
Many people came in and sat at our table and folded more cranes. It was beautiful. When we reached our goal of 1,000, the cranes kept coming. All in all, we mailed 1,873 cranes from Acadiana. The Bezos Family Foundation, through Students Rebuild, donated $2 to the Japanese recovery for each of those cranes. Within a few weeks of our cranes arriving at the Students Rebuild office in Seattle, people from around the world kept sending them.
All in all, the organization received one million origami cranes—900,000 more than their target goal. Organizers are partnering with Architecture for Humanity and shipping the cranes to become an art installation in Japan. They’re using the money to build an orphanage and a school in the Sendai area.
Skip a few weeks forward.
In April, my 13-year-old daughter, Greer, and I visited England. We made a trip to the English city of Bath, a city first settled by the Romans. The city, so named, because it was loved then and now for its warm healing waters. In fact, Greer and I toured the bathhouse the Romans used 2,000 years ago.
The entire structure has been excavated down to the very stone floor the Romans used. We entered on the street level and toured the upper portion of the building before going down steps to the stone floor surrounding the warm green pool, still fed by the same spring. When we stepped out onto the smooth and polished stones, I was in awe.
Upon entering the area, we practically bumped into two Asian girls. One tall and one short. I asked them if they would take our photograph by the bath. As I handed my camera to the shorter girl, I realized their English was marginal. That always makes me happy. I love speaking with people learning our language.
After the girl took our photograph, she motioned to ask if I would take a picture of her and her friend. I did. When I finished I counting to three and taking the photograph, I asked the girls where they were from.
“Japan,” one answered.
I asked, “Where in Japan?”
The tall girl said, “Tokyo.”
Because of what happened next, I cannot remember where the other girl said.
I smiled and in the way I speak with my hands, arms, legs and toes when I’m trying to communicate with someone who’s trying to learn English, I said, “In March, we folded 1,000 origami cranes for a senbazuru for Japan.”
I knew they would recognize the word sebazuru.
They did.
Both girls put their hands together and began bowing to us saying, “Thank you,” over and over and over.
Greer and I recognized their sincerity immediately, but they kept saying, “Thank you.” Then, I saw a single tear roll down the check of the taller girl.
Followed by another.
I know well the reticence of emotions in the Japanese culture. If you were watching, you probably saw on television families who, after four days of searching, reunited in the ruins of the tsunami after, simply stand and bow to each other.
No tears. No embrace.
The taller girl’s tears began to fall in abundance and within a moment, she was sobbing uncontrollably. I opened my arms and she fell into them, silently sobbing. We stood there the four of us.
They didn’t know our names.
We didn’t know theirs.
Still don’t, in fact.
Tears began to roll down Greer’s, the other girl’s and my own cheeks. It was one of those experiences you can’t believe even as it’s happening—powerful and compelling.
Finally, the Japanese girl regained her composure and we began to smile and laugh.
She said one more, “Thank you,” and the four of us posed for a photograph. Arms locked.
I don’t know why our tale of a senbazuru touched her the way it did. I don’t know if she had or lost family in the tsunami. I don’t know if it was just that moment of realizing how connected our lives are and that people in one place genuinely care about people in another.
Whatever it was, the four of us shared a remarkable moment that will stay with me.
I wish I knew her name.

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