[if you can’t see the video above, click here]
I spent half a year in India a few years back. I helped in slums and orphanages and visited children with AIDS. I saw a lot of misery and poverty. When I came back to the Netherlands I was conflicted by the superficiality I saw around me. I had a hard time finding any meaning in what I was doing. The design challenges I faced in my study seemed like unimportant luxury problems.
But as I developed as a designer and as a person, I started to change my perception. I started to see that helping someone who is poor isn’t necessarily better than helping someone who is rich. Reaching out to people around you isn’t less valuable than reaching out to people on the other side of the world. There might be places in the world in which people face real poverty, but just because a country is ‘rich’ doesn’t mean there is nothing left to improve. Often these ‘rich’ countries are very poor on a spiritual and emotional level.
The world can seem like a cold place sometimes. Every time you turn on the news you see people full of rage protesting against authority, conflicts that can’t seem to be solved, hatred and despair. On a daily base you pass by countless strangers who seem emotionless and distant. You could be sitting directly next to someone in the bus and still feel completely disconnected to him or her.
You can’t be everywhere. You can’t make a difference everywhere. That’s OK. I was born in the Netherlands and I live here now. So I better use my time and my specific place on this earth to the best I can.
You have a tremendous power within you to do good. You can go through life by making things around you worse, leaving them as they are or changing them for the better. This doesn’t always have to be in big things. It is about holding open a door for someone, smiling at a stranger or giving a compliment to a colleague. Once you recognise this power, you will find that it doesn’t have boundaries. It is strengthened by your hope, imagination and perseverance.
I folded 1000 origami cranes and gave them away to random strangers as an attempt to brighten people’s day. You never know what is going on in someone’s life. Over time I have seen that we aren’t that different from each other. In a way we all face similar troubles, heart aches, pain, regrets, worries and fears. Just because you don’t know someone well enough to point these specific personal challenges out doesn’t mean they aren’t there. In the same way we share the good things in life: the emotional highs, inspiration, hopes and dreams. I wanted to reach out to people and let them know that whatever they are facing in this moment in time, both good and bad, I wish them the very best. I want to bring people closer to each other: to break the distance with a bridge of hope and kindness. I want to show that you are connected and loved, even if you don’t experience it all the time.
In another way I hope to inspire people by showing them that it is possible to break conventional boundaries. The fact that something isn’t a ‘normal thing to do’, doesn’t have to limit its existence or value. If I can touch somebody with the simple act of giving away a crane, imagine how much you can do by carrying out your ideas, hopes and dreams. I want to show that you can do so much if only you have the desire to make positive changes in your tiny circle of influence. The power that lies within you is so big, if you just approach the world with a loving heart and courageous moves. Imagine if we would all try to tap into this power a little more often.
My paper cranes might mean nothing to some. I don’t expect everyone to understand and appreciate my gift to him or her. But if I just touched the lives of a few, of just one, if I just made someone’s day a little bit better, my mission was successful.