Kids and peace for all

Last Saturday, Sept. 21, was the 31st International Day of Peace, and the 7th Hawaii Peace Day. I have the great good fortune to belong to an organization that has helped honor that day by creating events where people can gather to celebrate peace together. This year we helped coordinate eight different events around the island. We also added something new.

At each venue, people were encouraged to make gold foil cranes. Inside the cranes, people wrote their peace prayers. Our goal is to take 1,000 of these cranes, and make them into a dove, the symbol of peace, and give it to the County Council, as a visual representation of the prayers of the people of Kauai, for peace on our island and in our world.

In 2011, the third-grade classes of Eleele Elementary School made 1,000 gold cranes, and gifted them to Mark Jeffers and Storybook Theater. They were crafted into a beautiful dove by Takeishi Fujita, with a beautiful pedestal designed by Ray Nitta, and are exhibited there. Mark also sent “The Story of Sadako Sasaki” (from … And the Earth Lived, happily ever after … Edited by Floating Eaglefeather) I am editing it due to space limitations.

“In Hiroshima, in 1943, a little girl was born whose name was Sadako Sasaki. When she was two years old, the U.S.A. dropped a nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Many innocent people died. Sadako lived, but, like many other children, some of them still inside their mothers’ bodies, she got a little particle of that radioactive material inside her body.

She had a happy, normal life until she was 12 years old, in the fifth grade, and she could run like the wind. Her class chose her as their representative in the relay races. She could run very fast! …

… “The next day, she again went to school, and again practiced her running. As she was running, Sadako fainted, and was taken to the hospital. In the hospital, they told her that she had leukemia, the nuclear bomb disease. Many children in and around Hiroshima and Nagasaki had gotten leukemia seven, eight, 10 years after the bomb was dropped, and were only six or seven years old when they found out they had leukemia. This was why it was called the atomic bomb disease.

You can imagine being 12 years old, in the fifth grade, and finding out that you have leukemia.  Sadako didn’t want to die; she wanted to have a long and happy life. One of her friends came to visit her in the hospital and folded a gold square of paper into a paper crane, oritsuru, saying, “The paper crane represents long and happy life, and, it is said, if you fold 1,000 paper cranes you will be assured of a long and happy life.”

Sadako’s family and friends brought her paper squares of all different colors, and she folded them into cranes. Her brother hung them from the ceiling of the hospital bedroom, and brightened the room up, making it truly beautiful. Sometimes her fingers moved with all fluidity, and it was easy to fold. Sometimes, she would have arthritic pains, but Sadako still folded because she knew that if she reached a thousand, she would be cured of the leukemia, and have a long and happy life.

On a certain day, she senesed that a cure was not possible, she would never get well. She continued to fold the cranes, but her prayer was no longer for recovery from her illness, but of health and peace for all the people of the world. As she finished each crane, she addressed a short litany to the little paper crane, “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.” After folding 644 cranes, on the 25th of October 1955, Sadako died in the Hiroshima Red Cross Hospital. Her family, the students at Noborimachi Junior High School, and children all over Japan, and later, the world, mourned for Sadako.

“The children of Japan collected money to build a monument to Sadako Sasaki and all the other  children who died from the A-bomb. The monument has a statue of Sadako holding a large golden crane over her head. At the base of the statue are the words:

“This is our cry,

This is our prayer;

Peace in the world!”

People come from all over the world and hang paper cranes from the statue. Sometimes, people will send a paper crane, or a string of paper cranes, or even just tell the story of Sadako, to their government leaders, telling, “We want all the children of the world to have long and happy lives. Stop preparing for nuclear war. This is not a way to assure children of having long and happy lives. Our cry and our prayer is also for Peace in the World.”

We had children at our peace events. I also went to Kapaa High School’s second Peace Week lunch time event, and gathered prayers to be made into cranes. These are the prayers of some of our youth on Kauai, and there were many more from all the different places.

“Please bless my family, and bring Mom and Dad safely home to me.”

“Bless our surfers and keep our oceans safe and clean.”

“Help us take care of nature.”

“Help the citizens in Japan and make the radiation go away.”

“Give aloha and respect and believe in yourself and everyone around you.”

“I pray for the animals who are going extinct.”

“May everyone know they have a safe place in You.”

“Please bring peace and love into the world. This world is full of hatred and must change”.

I also observed kids walking a labyrinth, which is a universal and ancient symbol representing the clearing of the mind to ready it for spiritual activity. When the labyrinth was first put down, the children would play upon it, enjoying the paths and circuits leading to the center. They were allowed to experience that joy for awhile, however, when they were given direction for walking the labyrinth, and told about its purpose, they became quiet and focused, and respectful of others walking their own paths.

We are so blessed by our kids on Kauai. I believe wholeheartedly in their goodness and worth.

Questions?

Hale ‘Opio Kaua’i convened a support group of adults in our Kaua’i community to “step into the corner” for our teens, to answer questions and give support to youth and their families on a wide variety of issues. Please email your questions or concerns facing our youth and families today to Annaleah Atkinson at aatkin-son@haleopio.org

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