peace and paper cranes
In a few short weeks, I’ll be putting my eighth grade son on a plane to Japan for the experience of a lifetime. He’s traveling as one of twelve middle school student ambassadors to our sister city of Hikone, Japan for a couple of weeks. He’ll stay with a Japanese host family, attend a Japanese middle school, march in Samurai costume in a city parade, meet dignitaries, and do all sorts of exciting things. Prior to that, we’ll be hosting a Hikone student in our home.
Amidst all of the fundraising, language practice, cultural courses and sushi feasts is the project of making one thousand origami paper cranes to present at the Children’s Peace Monument in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park. The monument was erected in memory of a girl named Sadako Sasaki who contracted leukemia after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima during World War II. During Sadako’s illness, she believed that folding 1000 paper cranes would make her wish for wellness come true. As her health declined, she changed her wish to world peace, and when she died, her school friends rallied to erect the Children’s Memorial Park in her honor. Her story is told in the children’s book Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes. Today, the paper crane has become a symbol for peace, and visitors from around the world present about ten million origami cranes at the monument as a peace offering. Our kids will be part of that tradition.
Right now, for my son, the paper folding project is one more thing to do. He knows it is significant, but as a middle schooler immersed in the here and now, it’s not that easy to grasp. He’s honored to be selected, and he’s busy bonding with classmates, adjusting to eighth grade homework and saving for an ipod to take on the plane. He’s mostly excited to meet his new friends, practice his Japanese, try the food and check out the high-tech (or low-tech, sometimes) toilets.
As his mother, the lump in my throat rises as the trip gets closer. I know what a huge opportunity this is. I know he will be changed by the experience. I know that when he can navigate around a foreign country, I won’t be able to clip his wings at home. I know he’ll have so many stories to share, there won’t be time for him to tell me everything. Some of those he’ll keep to himself, and that’s part of growing up.
So I pick up a piece of the pretty paper and make my own wish for these young ambassadors: for health, for safety, for friendship, and yes, for peace.
Here, one fold at a time, is where it begins.