If you’re looking for a place to have your faith in basic human kindness and generosity renewed, keep reading. If you’re tired of hearing about all the evil and hatred generated by the Internet and would rather read instead a story about the positive human energy that’s just sitting there, waiting to be unlocked by the breathtaking power of random online connections, stay right here.
I received an incredible gift in the mail just a few days after I returned home from the hospital recently — a stunning gift, made even more incredible because it came from 10 complete strangers. The beauty of this gift almost wiped away the miserable memories of my recent hospital stay.
The present arrived in a large box and was just sitting there on my front porch after being delivered with my daily mail. I rushed the mysterious package inside and immediately tore it open to see what it contained. It was at that moment that I learned a new word: “Senbazuru.”
The word is Japanese, and it describes a collection of 1,000 origami paper cranes that are painstakingly folded by hand. In ancient tradition, the creators of such a gift are granted a single wish — usually involving a desire to speed someone’s healing or recovery from a long illness or injury.
When I read the card that came inside the box, I learned that the effort to create my Senbazuru had been organized and led by Jane Smith, a health and fitness blogger for the Palm Beach Post, and whose name I recognized because she has added comments to some of my posts on this blog. Like me, Jane has had successful surgery to remove a brain tumor. She had learned about my blog from a mutual friend (former Orlando Sentinel staffer Tiffini Theisen), had become a fan and had written me some notes of encouragement last summer as I was going through my second surgery. Here is a post Jane wrote on her own blog last August explaining why she was launching the 1,000 cranes project for me and soliciting readers for help in folding the cranes. Nine other people joined the effort, including Jane’s sisters Colette Palovick and Judy Skinner, her niece, Kathy Palovick, and her friends and co-workers Annette Jones, Tory Malmer, Karen McGonagle, Michelle Quigley, Allison Ross and Susan Spencer-Wendel.
To each of them, I express here my everlasting gratitude for this wonderful act of generosity. I spread these beautiful cranes out on my dining room table today and was amazed by the effort that went into each one. I could not imagine myself folding 10 of them, let alone 100 or 1,000 of them. After receiving the gift, I e-mailed Jane to thank her and tell her how stunned I was to be the recipient of such a thing. She wrote back to tell me how she kept the project secret from me, and answered my questions about why so many people would be willing to devote such time and energy to a stranger living nearly 200 miles away.
“I didn’t post my blog on Facebook or Twitter, as I normally do, to keep you from finding out about the project before you received the cranes,” Jane said. “If I had to explain why they wanted to fold cranes for a stranger, I think they did it simply because I asked. They also wanted to help me with a feel-good project, as a way of passing my good health forward. Annette and Allison had made origami in the past and were eager to help. Allison actually folded 1,000 cranes for her grandfather’s birthday, so she was familiar with the crane legend. Karen is a high school friend that I recently reconnected with on Facebook. Your former co-workers also played a role. Tiffini Theisen, now a web trainer and social media editor at the Post, told me about your blog in the summer of 2009. She said you had a dry sense of humor, which I’ve come to appreciate. Kathryn Quigley, a former Post reporter and now an assistant professor of journalism at Rowan University, recently gave me your snail-mail address.”
My thanks go also to Tiffini and Kathryn for your part connecting me with such a wonderful group of people.
Now I must think of what to do with my Senbazuru. As I wrote in my note to Jane, if the phrase “pay it forward” could ever have more relevance than it does in a situation such as this one, I certainly cannot imagine what that superseding situation might be. So now I am working on a way to pass the healing power of this gift along to all of my fellow patients at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center here in Orlando. I don’t know exactly how that wish of my own might take form, but I have already been in contact with officials at the hospital and they are enthusiastic about helping me share this gift in that way. I will certainly be excited if I am able to pull off something like that, and I will let everyone know how things turn out.