Two years ago, I started to fold 1000 origami paper cranes. I finished folding the cranes after a year by making a couple of cranes every day or week. The intent always has been to give the cranes away to random strangers. This summer the project finally came to an end and I made a video of the process. I would like to share some additional pictures, stories and thoughts on the project: a sneak peak into the process, challenges and fun.
Color-sorting cranes to make a rainbow
That moment when I was offered drugs
I was walking over the sidewalk, pausing at every parked car to place one of my paper cranes behind the windscreen wipers. Every now and then, I would come across a passant, give him or her a crane too, and continue. After doing this for a while, I noticed a man approaching. He was walking a huge, angry looking dog. The guy wasn’t wearing a shirt, and his tattooed body glistered from his sweat in the warm sun. He came closer. His bloodshed eyes looked around him with an absent gaze: as if he wasn’t really in this world. He was only a few steps away from me and I hesitated. Should I give him a crane too? He looked somewhat unpredictable. This was a sweet plan and all, but what if it was really the worst idea ever and would end with me and my blood-smeared face dumped in a ditch? Advice from my childhood popped up in my head: ‘don’t talk to strangers’ together with my mother’s advice to trust my gut in unknown situations. I took a deep breath and reached out my arm to him, a paper crane in my hand. This guy deserved some love too and I wasn’t going to be selective about it. He took my crane. I walked by. I lived.
Fast forward 20 minutes.
Two blocks further, I had now arrived at a parking lot while still continuing my mission. From the corner of my eye I could see someone approaching me on a bike in high speed. I turned my head and realised it was that guy. He stopped right in front of me by suddenly forcing his brakes and opened his hand. In his hand was a small plastic bag with a dried, green herbal substance: weed, for me. He started to explain that I made his day and that he was so happy and wanted to offer me something in return: ‘For me a crane, for you some grass’. I tried to decline politely. ‘Oh you don’t smoke? What about your friends, take it for them.’ I felt touched by his generous and heartfelt gesture and somewhat bad for not receiving the gift that he had rushed to give me, but didn’t feel comfortable taking the drugs he offered me. I thanked him anyway and he took off again. As he biked away, I felt a bit giddy about the whole thing. Who would have known that the guy that I nearly didn’t give a crane, would be most happy about receiving one? The world is full of surprises like that. And I stuck another crane under a windscreen wiper, smiling.
Explaining to a girl who loved the pencil necklace I was wearing (in my hand at this point) how to make one yourself.
That moment when people are suspicious about my intentions
It’s interesting to me to notice people’s reaction when I give them an origami crane. Most people simply don’t know what to say or do and take the crane with a blank or confused face. Many ask me ‘why?’ or ‘what is it for’. I could say a lot of things about that, but usually my thoughts are fast yet my words are slow and I just end up saying: ‘just because…’ Every now and then someone won’t take my crane. They will shake their head and look the other way. When people are passing by and see this happen, it will start a short domino effect of people refusing to take my crane. Although the rejection is a completely understandable reaction – I can see how it would be easy to confuse my gesture for an advertisement campaign or other event in a split-second decision – it does make me feel sad.
It is as if I have so much love to give, so much I would love to share with people, and some just won’t take it. They simply aren’t open to it.
On a deeper level it symbolizes how closed off some people are to the world around them and how much they reject love because of fear, uncertainty or misjudging a situation.
It makes me sad that some people aren’t more curious to at least accept the piece of folded, colourful paper to find out what it is all about.
For these reasons I have found the process of giving away my 1000 cranes tough at times. It is a vulnerable position to take and a gesture that many don’t or won’t understand. When somebody doesn’t want to receive the present I made for them so carefully and full of love, it breaks my heart just a little.
At first I hadn’t anticipated that Dutch people would have difficulties with the English language in the note. Some would ask me to explain it to them. After handing out the first 100 in English, I decided to switch to Dutch for the other 900.
That moment when I received a flower
As I was handing out cranes at the train station early in the morning, a girl approached me with a flower in her hands. The flower was pink and wrapped in transparent plastic. She gave it to me. Now, for one moment, I didn’t know what to say or do. Earlier, I had seen her stand outside, smoking, and given her a crane. She was so touched by my gesture that she decided to buy me a pretty flower: “I was so afraid that you would be gone already”. Moments like that are so awesome because it convinces me that what I do does matter. It is hard to know what people think of my crane once they have accepted one and walk on. It is easy to think that my project means nothing to people when my negative thoughts get the best of me. But when someone thanks me like that, I see how my action is connecting people and makes a positive impact and it recharges me hugely in my efforts.
That moment when I checked social media
And found this (brought to my attention by a friend), and started to realize the bigger, more invisible impact of my project:
Ok, so secretly I gave away all of my 1000 cranes except for the last 10. I still have them. Because I want to give them away to some really special people: to you!! :D I am normally not really into hosting giveaways, but this is a personal project that I would love to share with you. I mean, it isn’t really fair that you read my blog and saw my video and then didn’t get a crane of your own, now is it?
So, I am mailing the last 10 origami cranes to the first 10 to comment.
Please leave your e-mail or way to contact you, so I can e-mail you about what home-address I should send my crane to. It doesn’t matter if you live on the other side of the world or 2 blocks away from me. Sometimes I might not stress enough how much I appreciate the fact that you take the time to read my blog, leave encouraging messages and positively enforce my creativity. Thanks you guys, you are awesome and I would love to give you a paper crane to show my love and appreciation!
One last thing: I wish I could show you a picture of how me and my boyfriend were quietly climbing up the fire escape ladder of my apartment, trying not to get noticed by my upstair neighbours, balancing 1000 colourful cranes in big bags. Unfortunately, I didn’t take any picture as I kind of needed both of my hands at that point, so you will just have to imagine the visual :)
August 7, 2013 at 11:01
this has brought a tear to my eye. this is so incredibly wonderful. i’m going to share this post with everyone who reads my blog. there ought to be more people like you in the world.
August 7, 2013 at 11:12
I’m a new reader–I’ve only just discovered your blog in the last few weeks, and I just wanted to say that you are beautiful. This post has made my day, so thank you. :)
August 12, 2013 at 20:43
Hi Kayla: I cannot see/find your e-mail address. Would you please give it to me or directly e-mail me your home-adress to magicaldaydream [@] hotmail [.] com
August 20, 2013 at 00:37
I apologise for my late reply. I’m happy for my crane to go to someone else, if you haven’t already passed it on. I just commented to let you know how fantastic I think you are. :)
August 7, 2013 at 11:36
This is the most amazing thing I have ever read. I would love to receive a crane from you. email@example.com
Well done. It is an inspiration and fills my hear t with joy. You are amazing.
August 7, 2013 at 11:47
Oh, what a inspiring post! Sometimes we do something similar, last week we bought some popsicles and gave them to strangers and a lot of happy people passed our way, this is always a great experience. :)
Greetings from Germany
August 7, 2013 at 11:58
i remember sitting and watching my host sister in Japan fold these for her friend who was graduating – she breezed right through making each one and mine continued to look like injured birds after spending a good 10 minutes on a single crane, haha. Yours look lovely, I might add!
This project is so inspiring, it really is. Everyone could use a little joy in their day, and I think seeing the gratitude, from the social media post to the guy offering you weed in return is so heartwarming. So glad to hear about this :)
August 7, 2013 at 12:56
Oh, what an awesome idea! I love this. Your cranes are beautiful and I LOVE love love your hair!
August 7, 2013 at 13:50
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August 7, 2013 at 13:51
This is such a wonderful idea! I wish that I knew how to make them so I could do a similar project. They are so beautiful!
April 3, 2021 at 18:21
Thanks for this idea I’m gonna try it just to hear people say thanks
August 7, 2013 at 14:15
Very inspiring!! Also the reactions of the people are so different person to person! Hope I still go on time to get one hehe
I’m so glad I came across with your blog, it’s full of color and happiness. I love creative people who also likes to travel ;)
August 7, 2013 at 15:08
This is such a beautiful story – all of it really. The act of folding the colorful cranes with the intention of giving them away. Touching lives. The reciprocation from others (in the best way that knew how). It’s all so lovely and it definitely made my day. :)
August 7, 2013 at 15:49
I love you cranes and whole this idea, I want one, too! :)
dada.barokova (at) gmail.com
August 7, 2013 at 15:51
(I know my comment is already 11th but Hope commented two times and deleted one comment so I guess I’m 10th reader to comment. :) )
August 7, 2013 at 17:23
I find your blog very inspirational, thank you for doing projects just as this and sharing them with others!
August 7, 2013 at 17:23
Ik ben echt fan van bijna alles wat je doet maar je posts over dit project waren echt al awesome. Ik heb denk ik niet gereageerd toen maar kreeg echt kippenvel bij je filmpje. Een echte inspiratie!
August 7, 2013 at 19:13
Your posts are always so charming and inspiring :). My friend and I have started our own crane project to pass on the goodness, though we only have about 200 folded right now.
I would love to receive a crane if you still have one to send (firstname.lastname@example.org).
P.S. My name is also Marielle. It is very uncommon here (USA), and you are the only other Marielle I know of. Is the name just as rare in The Netherlands?
August 7, 2013 at 19:46
So lovely to hear the stories! I love your honesty about the insecurities you encountered both inside yourself and from the people you tried to give cranes to as well. Funny how doing something like this can take so much courage. It is hard to put yourself out there for sure. You are so brave and caring!
I think I’m a bit late to receive a crane but, email@example.com (of course!) ;)
August 7, 2013 at 20:06
Well I am too late to receive an origami crane but I would still like to say that I think it is a wonderful thing that you’ve done. I think more people should participate in random acts of kindness
August 7, 2013 at 21:32
Sad that I missed out on a crane, but I just wanted to say – what an inspiring project! Such a lovely idea :) x
August 7, 2013 at 21:52
This is such a sweet project. –Hanna Marie
August 8, 2013 at 01:00
I have loved this story from the very beginning, and am a little sad that all the cranes are now gone and this chapter has ended. But I know that this is far from being your last random act of kindness.
August 8, 2013 at 01:04
and now i’ve just watched the video and i’m trying not to cry. you are the sweetest thing.
August 8, 2013 at 02:01
This is so beautiful. I love each of your stories. Must have been amazing to see it pop up on social media :)
August 8, 2013 at 02:32
You are amazing and I loved reading the story of this project.
August 8, 2013 at 04:25
This is one of those times where I’m really kicking myself for getting so behind on blog reading. I missed out on your cranes! Gah! I actually haven’t even read all your other posts that I missed but when I saw this one today I just had to read it and see how your crane project ended : ] I’m sure I’ll comment on a few other older posts when I get to them in the next few days haha. But anyway, this was great! Everything you wrote about people’s reactions is just so spot on. It’s really an interesting thing to watch and take part in. But I’m so glad you handed out your 990 cranes! That’s so stinking cool! A big congratulations to you! And maybe if you ever decide to fold another 1000 cranes, I can snatch one of those up before too late ; ]
P.S.–How funny is it that that guy offered you weed?! Haha! I probably would have taken it to make him happy but then just thrown it away. Oh, and that Facebook post?! So cool! It goes to show that all the little things really do matter : ]
August 8, 2013 at 08:53
Just seeing your bright smile on the street, with your basket of cranes to give away, would brighten anyone’s day.
joyce matula welch
August 8, 2013 at 10:44
I loved this whole project and I have watched and shared your video many times. My daughter makes paper cranes too, and when I see them now I think of you. You have already many times over given me a paper crane with your blog. Keep creating and keeping loving :)
August 8, 2013 at 11:01
This is awesome, I love that as you spread the kindness, people were kind in return. I bet some of those people who got cranes went off and made someone elses day happier too.
I’ve been having a crappy couple of days, feeling like sometimes I put more effort into things than others return back. Your project has just confirmed I need to keep spreading love and positivity, because it does work and it does make the world a better place.
August 10, 2013 at 00:23
I just love your blog! It just reminds me how beautiful and wonderful this hard world really is. I would love a crane! But if not, I send my love and encouragement anyway. :)
August 10, 2013 at 05:30
This is such a sweet idea! I love that there are people that will go out of their way to repay one another, even if it’s a bit questionable?
Anyways love your blog and keep doing what your doing! <3
August 10, 2013 at 13:31
Such a lovely project, shame you had to modify the language but you got there in the end. The fire escape story sounds fun1
August 10, 2013 at 15:43
This is so sweet and considerate. I wish I could receive one from you. Watched the video and it made me cry!
The Young Bridget Jones
August 12, 2013 at 17:07
Aw, I’m obviously too late to get a crane :) but I love this so much. I make paper cranes every once in a while to relax. I haven’t in a while, but I might start again soon!
floating thru fields
August 13, 2013 at 01:04
This is really amazing, I love that you want to change the world through creative acts of kindness, small little actions that can brighten someone’s day :)
I need to start baking more and doing little things to brighten people’s day :)
August 13, 2013 at 17:38
What an absolutely beautiful project, thank you for sharing this. I love the reactions of the people you gave cranes too. =)
August 13, 2013 at 21:12
I absolutely love your origami crane project. Good job, it was completely inspiring!
August 15, 2013 at 05:56
I really love this “behind the scenes” of the paper crane project ^_^
I’m going to participate as well :)
August 15, 2013 at 16:26
If only there were more people in this world with your kind heart and way of thinking :)
I know I’m SUPER late, but I wanted to leave a comment anyways because I love this project and what it means/stands for.
August 26, 2013 at 04:04
Wow.. your amazing and very kind. Brought a tear to my eye.
August 27, 2013 at 04:29
What a beautiful and kind idea! Reading this filled my heart with joy. <3
Green Tea and Cupcakes
August 30, 2013 at 23:38
You made me cry I was very touched by this project. If everyone had your attitude the world would be a much better place.
September 22, 2013 at 21:07
What a wonderful story! Kristin A. shared your link on the Happify website in a discussion thread, and I’m so glad I took the time to read your story. A little random act of generosity can be so powerful and touching. Thanks for sharing.
September 23, 2013 at 15:54
I am not familiar with the Happify website, going to check it out. Great to hear that is how you landed here and that you enjoyed my story :) I believe in the power of inspiration to change the world. Thank you for letting me know!
February 20, 2014 at 00:42
I find this so inspiring and amazing. this was the perfect thing for me to see today. I was having a really bad day and you made it so much better and I thank you for that.
February 24, 2014 at 09:48
I’m happy to hear that :) Even though we feel bad at times, there are always good things we can do to change the way we feel :)
March 3, 2014 at 07:31
Beautiful woman, beautiful gesture to beautiful people. love, Love, LOVE! A changing experience for you. You must be very proud of yourself. Great stories. I did something a little similar to you but not as labouris as making the cranes. What dedication. I was a core group of 4 to do FREE HUGS in our community & it was hilarious to watch some people walk away, some give you a puzzled look but most smiled & hugged us.
March 5, 2014 at 11:13
That’s awesome! I never did free hugs, perhaps one day I will. :)
March 29, 2014 at 09:33
this is so incredibly creative and wonderful! you had so much patiance in making them and share them with other people is so beautiful. small acts of kindness like this could change the wold. :) Thanks
and thanks for you comment on my blog :)
December 15, 2016 at 19:29
I actually read this article a long time ago. But I just want you to know that I’ll be starting my 1000 origami crane project this coming 2017. I was supposed to do it this year but a lot of projects kept me busy. I decided that I should push it. Thank you for sharing your story. It has inspired me to do the same thing :)
December 16, 2016 at 16:37
That sounds so wonderful! Keep me posted, I always love to hear about others doing similar projects! Let me know how it goes if you want :)