One Thousand Cranes

Transcript of a speech I read at a school-wide assembly last week:

The crane’s ethereal beauty has inspired countless artists, poets and performers. Its dances are spectacular; the birds bow and bob, throw their heads back and trumpet, throw grass, stones and feathers into the air, leap up and parachute back down on their broad wings, seeming to jump for joy.  It flies in a V formation with its neck outstretched, blessing the world with the sight of its long, elegant body soaring through the air. Gregarious and social, it congregates whenever possible in large, noisy flocks.  Although it can be found on five different continents, it is increasingly rare today, as many of its habitats are under attack.  Cranes are also loyal; they mate for life, and when they lay eggs – usually two – both parents help to bring the chicks to adulthood.  Pliny the Elder wrote that cranes would appoint one of their number to stand guard while they slept. The sentry would hold a stone in its claw, so that if it fell asleep it would drop the stone and awaken.

In Japan, the crane is representative of longevity and luck, and also associated with the number one thousand, a number that often represents infinity.  Legend holds it that the crane’s lifespan is a thousand years.  Further, the bird is believed to be able to grant a wish to whomever amasses a thousand cranes folded according to the ancient art of origami.

(Here I asked my incredibly courageous friend, who was decked out in pink and sporting a wig that looked for all the world like her natural hair, to stand.  And at the same time, two of our students pulled this mobile from its box to gasps and a thunderous applause that lasted for several minutes before I could continue.)

Two students presenting the cranes to their teacher. Two students presenting the cranes to their teacher.

Like the crane, you are rare and beautiful.  You fly at the front of the flock with your neck outstretched, embracing suffering without shame, blessing each one of us with your ability to bear trials that we all wish you did not have to bear.  You are a devoted teacher, wife and mother to your two – chicks – and you work tirelessly to ensure that each of them, along with each of the students in your extended “family,” have the most and best opportunities possible.

Although most of us have not been witness to your trumpeting dance, we know that you radiate joy with your love for life and thirst for knowledge.  And we know that you like to congregate in the large, noisy flocks of a different type of bird – the raven.*

Your students and colleagues have missed you so very much this year, and we wanted to do something to show you how often you are in our thoughts while you’re at home getting your strength back.  We don’t believe in legends, but we do believe in the healing power of Christ.  We believe that He watches over His children with a love which none of us can comprehend.  And we believe in the power of prayer to heal.  It is with this prayer that we present you with one thousand origami cranes, folded by many of the people gathered here today.  We love you and can’t wait to have you back here with us.

*This amazing woman's only flaw may be that she's a professional football fanatic.  Can you spot the Ravens-themed strand in the mobile?