“Unity is strength… when there is teamwork and collaboration, wonderful things can be achieved”
- Mattie Stepanek (July 17, 1990 - June 22, 2004)
Back in August, I posted asking for help with a different type of DIY Project. A 24 year old from Ohio, Leslie (Whitt) Williams, was quickly losing her battle with mitochondrial disease. She was working through her bucket list of things she wanted to do. One of the things on her list was to fold 1000 Paper Cranes based on the Japanese Legend, only she didn’t have the energy to do it. So I posted asking for help. And you did it. Before we knew it, over 5,000 Paper Cranes arrived!!!
Leslie’s sister, Megan Whitt-Sheehy organized a crane party to string them together, and then they hung them in Leslie’s room – EVERYWHERE!
To My Dear, Fellow Crane Folders,
During the process of writing this note, I came across a blog post by my friend Candice, in which she discusses hope. This has become a very important word for me over these past few months. As you know, my family is facing the ineluctable decline of my sister, Leslie. Leslie was diagnosed with Mitochondrial Disease about five years ago, and she has been fighting the illness non-stop. In her post, Candice quotes a 2008 speech by President Obama:
“Hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the task ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path. It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it, and to work for it, and to fight for it. Hope is the belief that destiny will not be written for us, but by us, by the men and women who are not content to settle for the world as it is, who have the courage to remake the world as it should be.”
Wherever you fall politically, you cannot deny the gravity of these words.
If you know me at all, you know that I do not believe in miracles. I do not pray, I do not have faith in a spiritual being. I believe that when we die, that is it. Our bodies break down, stop functioning, then decay. I personally have no evidence otherwise. I do, however, have hope, and I do not believe you need any of those other things to have hope. Even though terrible things happen, things that we cannot even begin to comprehend, I have hope that as a whole, people are truly wonderful and good. Humans do amazing things. We come together for causes bigger than ourselves. If you made a paper crane for my sister Leslie, you are one of those people. You participated in something so much bigger than yourself, and with such fervent, leonine ferocity. When I created the “1000 Paper Cranes for Leslie” event, I honestly expected just a few close friends and family members to participate. I was not entirely sure that we would ever reach one thousand cranes. Then more and more people began posting to the event. More and more cranes showed up in the mail. We passed one thousand, then two thousand, then three, four, and five thousand. With each crane that arrived, my hope in humanity grew exponentially.
I do not know about all of you, but I will be able to look back on this experience as a moment when my life truly changed for the better. Throughout this event I made new friends and reconnected with old friends. I talked to people that I would have never met otherwise. I began the process of healing old wounds and rekindled relationships with family members. Many of you posted photos of making cranes with your families, so I hope that this experience has been just as uplifting for all of you.
As of this moment, Leslie has 5,321 cranes, made with love, from each and every one of you. Whether you folded one or one hundred, I want all of you to know that your efforts made a very ill young woman smile; you brought her joy. As my beautiful little sister drifts from this life, she can take comfort in the fact that she has loved and been loved – that she made a difference. She has certainly made a difference to me. All of you have. You may believe you were just folding a little piece of paper, but you were doing so, so much more.
As I move forward, I have hope that the destiny we write for ourselves will be a positive one. I am not ignoring the enormity of what is to come, but bracing myself against it with the thought of a bright tomorrow. Whenever that may be.
Thank you. I truly love every single one of you.
Peace and Love,
Thank you all, for helping Leslie and her family with one of her wishes.
Please keep her mom, Allisa Whitt, her sister Megan and Leslie’s husband, Jeff in your thoughts and prayers.