[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.
Behind the scenes: 1000 origami cranes project, untold stories
July 26, 2013 at 11:32
As an actual recipient, a heartfelt thanks for the gesture.
August 7, 2013 at 10:38
That is so great to hear, thanks for letting me know :)
July 26, 2013 at 16:14
This is such a touching and heartfelt post. Beautiful. Here’s to showing that we care… one person at a time and in every way we can big and small. Have a great weekend, Marielle!
August 7, 2013 at 10:40
Yes! Thank you & hope you had a great weekend too :)
July 26, 2013 at 17:10
Wow Marielle! What looks like the conclusion of the 1000 cranes project, is actually endless when put together in a video. This is beautiful!
My country really needs efforts like these. I try smiling to strangers, joy can be contagious. Some of them smile back but most of them feel confused. :P
Your purpose has really touched me, just as if you’d given me a crane. Or maybe your blog is a big paper crane?
I don’t know you in real life, but I’m sure that even the man that tried to steal your bike must have felt a sudden surprise yet a joyful vibe.
I’m sharing this with my friends. ♥
August 7, 2013 at 10:44
I love your thoughts. I still find it difficult to smile at strangers sometimes, especially with guys as I don’t want to give them a ‘wrong impression’. I do hope that my blog is one big paper crane ;) In the end the crane project is a manifestation of my vision, that can be found back throughout my whole blog
July 26, 2013 at 22:13
Really a nice post. It reminds me of two salesgirls in AH. They always smile to you when dealing you case. That would really meke you cheerful somehow. So I always go to them to pay the bill, even though the waiting line is longer than others.
August 7, 2013 at 10:45
Haha great example of how something as simple as a smile actually influences your action. Thanks for sharing!
July 30, 2013 at 03:11
Wow. I love this. Everything about this! Just the time and effort put into this, combined with the reasoning behind it? It’s beautiful.
August 7, 2013 at 10:47
Thank you :)
July 31, 2013 at 10:47
The video is great. It really touched me as the crane did last week.
Thanks for the message. You are an inspiration to me. I should not only think about what I can do to touch somebody, but I can actually do it.
A smile a day makes a whole lot of difference.
August 7, 2013 at 10:49
It means a lot to me that you took the effort to find my blog and say this to me. I mostly don’t know what happens with my cranes and if they are even appreciated at all, and it is a huge enforcement to hear the voice of someone like you. Thank you for inspiring me :)
July 31, 2013 at 20:12
You are so inspirational :) Thanks for this. It’s uplifting.
August 7, 2013 at 10:50
July 31, 2013 at 20:45
This is amazing! I would have loved to have been a recipient of one of these. People don’t realize that one good thing you do for someone else can really lift up their spirit.
August 7, 2013 at 10:50
So true. And, you still have a small chance of receiving one ;) (see post of today)
July 31, 2013 at 23:16
This is lovely. <3
Found your blog through Elycia and glad I did!
August 7, 2013 at 10:51
Glad to hear!
August 1, 2013 at 12:04
Ahh! I’m glad I found your blog from Elycia’s :) I took some photos of paper cranes in Japan recently, I think you’ll like them:
Also, I was curious about the bike thief story, so I went and read that one too. It’s hilarious and sad at the same time. You definitely made me smile and I love your attitude, it’s nice to find open-minded kind people in the world :)
I’m following along to see more of your adventures now!
August 7, 2013 at 10:52
I love your photos from Japan, so pretty! I would love to go there one day. So happy to welcome you on my blog!
August 1, 2013 at 22:44
Truly wonderful. Thanks for sharing. I have been leaving paper cranes at restaurants, etc. for a few years. I never know if they are just thrown away or enjoyed. I like to think that it brightened someone’s day and made the world a little less scary.
August 7, 2013 at 10:53
That is so awesome! I actually started with just carrying one in my wallet for selective situations that I didn’t know how to help or handle but wanted to do something.
joyce matula welch
August 2, 2013 at 13:27
Beautiful Marielle! The video the blog, your art, your words inspire me and remind me that there is light to be found in any darkness. Continue to do what you do, I know you make my world brighter. :)
August 7, 2013 at 10:54
:D yay thank you so much for you kind words, they brighten my world in return!
August 4, 2013 at 03:37
This is beautiful. You have inspired me to do something like this and change the lives of even a couple of people. I won’t be able to fold 1000 but I want to help make the world a brighter place
August 7, 2013 at 10:55
That’s awesome! It’s not about the numbers but about the intention. I just wanted to set myself a large goal and liked the symbolic meaning and story behind folding 1000 cranes. But even just 3 cranes would be great!
August 4, 2013 at 21:33
Very wonderful and inspiring :) Thank you :)
August 7, 2013 at 10:56
:D you’re welcome & thanks for your message :)
August 8, 2013 at 10:41
This is such a beautiful thing to do. Sometimes it just takes a simple gesture like a smile to make someones day change for the better. I wonder how many people’s day you cheered up.
August 8, 2013 at 15:28
I love this. Such a beautiful idea : ) And the look of suprise and then appreciation on some people’s faces…. if only we didn’t live in a society where people are suprised when a stranger is nice to you
August 8, 2013 at 15:37
This Made Me Cry so Bad. Only Because I Saw how one person could bring so many smiles to peoples faces I make 3D origami stars and I think I am going to do the exact same thing. Thanks for inspiring Me. With Love
i s a b e l l e
August 18, 2013 at 20:48
This is so cool! And it made me so happy :)
August 18, 2013 at 22:11
This is beautiful! Your blog is so inspiring! I am a new follower and I am so glad I found it. People like you reinforce my belief that there is still so much good in this world. xo
Rachel | 52 Weeks Project
August 23, 2013 at 21:25
What a lovely sentiment! Very seldom do people do such kind acts. Even reading your post has made my day :)
September 4, 2013 at 20:12
How absolutely wonderful! :) Thank you for finding me. I do so appreciate others who also find joy in folding paper cranes and leaving/giving them to strangers. I know the response from those who got back to me has been overwhelmingly positive. I imagine people who’ve received or found your cranes feeling the same. It’s important for people to try to give back and further kindness in any way (big or small!) that they can. Bravo Marielle! I’ve toyed with the idea of giving cranes out to specific people as my next project when my current 1000 crane project is completed. (At this rate, probably another 3 years!) I loved the video you did for your blog. It looks like you received a lot of joy from giving them out. :) Have written a little ditty about it on my fb page. Keep up the good work and don’t stop being you!
October 28, 2013 at 21:48
Hi, I loved your post and featured it on my blog with appropriate links.
I hope you like it!
Thanks for the inspiration xx
January 26, 2014 at 23:52
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May 4, 2014 at 21:03
Hello, Marielle. Your post is almost a year old, but I want to tell you how much joy it brought me reading this blog and watching the video at a perfect time. I was feeling down today, until I read this and your other posts (especially about your grandfather’s house). :)
Thank you for making my day and making it brighter. Now I know where to go and what blog to read even on my grayest days.
Best of luck! From Washington state, USA.
May 7, 2014 at 10:33
Thanks for letting me know! And I am happy to provide a warm happy place for those grey days, we all need them ;)
June 18, 2014 at 17:40
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July 14, 2014 at 22:30
Je soʝhaiterai vous dire que c’est éternellement unne joie de passer sսr ce
July 29, 2014 at 10:47
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August 11, 2014 at 17:54
I love the importance of place.
“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.”
We often underestimate the importance of place. Of our location. Our land. The people in our proximity. The community of our location.
I really appreciate your desire to reach out to the people in your specific place. The Netherlands is great to have you. I’m glad that my place is Chicago. I am deeply connected to this city and love sharing my art in its public spaces.
August 20, 2014 at 20:14
I don’t feel bound by the Netherlands.. but I do feel that you should try to make the best of your given place and given time :) Every place needs people who shine
September 12, 2014 at 04:12
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September 25, 2014 at 14:44
Thank you for sharing these wonderful thoughts with the world. You are really inspiring and I started thinking, what I can do, here where I am. Thank you!
November 5, 2014 at 14:41
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February 12, 2015 at 15:34
Dear Marielle Coppes,
You are so inspiring! Here at Adams Elementary in Indianapolis, Indiana, we are celebrating you as a person who loves art and loves making people smile with your creative actions! The whole school of 500 kids considers you a great artists and we wanted to let you know how wonderful we think you are! We’ve folded thousands of cranes and we will be giving them to a teacher with cancer, but for the remaining cranes after the 1000 we’re folding for her, we want to share them with others to help put a smile on their faces! Thank you for being such an incredible role model and person!
Adams Elementary students and art teacher :)
February 20, 2015 at 10:49
You can’t imagine how much your comment made my day. I am very honoured to be considered as a role model. I think it’s wonderful that you all are working together to make other people smile. Please let your students know that I’m so happy to hear about them and so proud of them. They can change the world. I truly believe that.
June 16, 2015 at 13:58
this is so beautiful!! I love to give flowers to strangers
July 1, 2015 at 08:24
Well I didn’t get a crane, because I live in Central Africa, but by looking up how to make a crane for my wife, I found your blog site, and ended up watching your video. Seeing people’s surprise and delight in getting a simple, unexpected gift was a gift for me this morning as well, so now I feel like I got my crane after all. Thank you! I’m also thinking about how I can pass that gift on, which I think is a very important thing to do. Thank you for your beautiful spirit and for brightening my day no end.
July 2, 2015 at 15:02
Thank you! Have you folded a crane for your wife yet? Is it for a special occasion or just because? Good luck!
July 1, 2015 at 08:38
Oh wow! I just read your introduction page and spotted that you had already travelled to Gabon, which is where my wife and I live. Normally there would be no ‘wow’ factor, but as you might have surmised, it’s very hard to meet anyone else who’s actually been there. Let us know if you’re ever back this way again.
July 2, 2015 at 15:03
Yeah I lived there 4 years as a kid, until I was about 9 years old. I have such fond memories of the place!
February 17, 2016 at 14:10
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February 14, 2018 at 21:20
Thank you for being so inspiring, feeling down after the passing of my grandfather last week and needed some creative ideas and found your video, going to do this in my own city. thank you!
February 15, 2018 at 14:06
I’m sorry for your loss, but happy to hear that the intended joy of this video is reaching you. Good luck with the project! Let me know how it goes :)