Healing power

Posted in Uncategorized by Sean Holton on November 8, 2010

Only about 100 cranes are out on the table. The other 900 are in the bag.

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.


19 Responses

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  1. Jane said, on November 8, 2010 at 6:15 pm

    I’m glad we were able to make a difference in your life, Sean. I think keeping a positive attitude is the key to staying healthy. I do hope and pray that you can remain tumor-free.

    I passed on the blog link to my fellow folders of the origami cranes. You just made our day!

  2. Lisa said, on November 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    What a lovely gift.

    Hope you’re feeling better.

  3. Tiffini Theisen said, on November 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    What a wonderful thing Jane and the others did. Glad you’re back home Sean.

  4. patebooks said, on November 8, 2010 at 7:04 pm

    I love the legend of the cranes, love that they found you, and love that you will share them with others. Good wishes all around…


  5. April said, on November 8, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    This is lovely! Very happy such a wonderful gift found you, and I know it will be paid forward many times over. Much love.

  6. Lori said, on November 8, 2010 at 8:00 pm

    This is a powerful and inspiring act of human kindness. I am so grateful that you shared this story with us on your blog and on FB. It is the kind of story that I want to share with everyone I know. Sean, your spirit amazes me. You are incredible.

  7. Victor Manuel Ramos said, on November 8, 2010 at 9:48 pm


  8. Kathryn Quigley said, on November 8, 2010 at 10:08 pm

    I think you should tape the cranes to your head and wear them as a hat.

  9. Annette Jones said, on November 9, 2010 at 9:01 am

    I’m so glad I was able to be part of this project and what I could take away from it also. I love your positive attitude. I wish good health for you always. I’ll keep you in my prayers!

    It is not how much we do, but how much love we put in the doing. It is not how much we give, but how much love we put into the giving. – Mother Teresa

  10. Kathryn Quigley said, on November 9, 2010 at 10:18 pm

    I have another suggestion! Tape the cranes all over your body, head to Crane’s Roost Park and flap your arms like wings.

  11. claudine hellmuth said, on November 10, 2010 at 1:35 pm

    what and amazing and beautiful! gift!! to display them perhaps they could be strung onto fishing wire into various floor to ceiling lengths and make almost like a wall of cranes!!

  12. LauraD said, on November 10, 2010 at 3:20 pm

    Gives me hope. 🙂

  13. Colorado Bob said, on November 10, 2010 at 5:02 pm

    I have a great crane story . In the spring of 1998 I got to see the entire population of sand hill cranes, take off for Canada at the Muleshoe Wildlife Refuge .

    Tens of thousands of birds. There was a huge thermal just north of the refuge. In that thermal, was a spiraling corkscrew of sandhills , all singing at once, going up literally thousands of feet. At ground level, from every point on the compass, thousands more were coming into the base of the thermal. As soon as they entered it, they could stop flapping, and just soar. They were very happy birds.

    From below , groups in the spiral were going different directs on different levels. It was mind boggling one of the coolest things I ever saw.

  14. Flatus said, on November 10, 2010 at 5:43 pm

    I surely would prepare a wonderfully comfortable fedora adorned with as many of the cranes as can comfortably fit.

    The finished product will of course be known as Lard’s Crafty Cranium Crane Craft.

  15. Jane said, on November 11, 2010 at 10:39 am

    I like Claudine’s idea of stringing the cranes on fishing wire to create a wall of cranes. Maybe someplace at the M.D. Anderson Cancer Center where patients and visitors can see them? That would be a lot of healing power!

  16. Chopline said, on November 14, 2010 at 5:03 pm

    What an amazing and inspiring gift. If you need volunteers to fold more cranes or help in ANY way with your project at MD Anderson, I’d like to sign up as one of your foot soldiers. You know where to find me — I’m there to help in any way you need. You might also think about creating some sort of display or sculpture with the cranes!

  17. rebeany said, on November 16, 2010 at 12:08 pm

    sean: not only is it an amazing gift…filled with the hopes and intentions of so many people – but has inspired me to organize the same thing for a beloved teacher at my daughter’s school who is in the chemo phase dealing with a brain tumor.
    i am so happy to see you posting and to ‘hear’ your voice.

  18. Maxtrue said, on November 25, 2010 at 10:53 am

    Wishing you the best this Thanksgiving Lard….

    Was there a turkey in among those cranes?


  19. […] Such a collection of cranes is known as a Senbazuru. Part of the tradition goes back to a group of Japanese schoolchildren who made a Senbazuru for a young girl who contracted leukemia after surviving the 1945 atomic bomb attack on Hiroshima. For more background, read this blog entry. […]

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