Tag Archives: tsunami

LSS: I wish I knew her name.

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.

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.