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I Want Love to Win
McGinnis (aka "Francis
With my face painted white, I pointed to the tear coming down from each eye
and said I was very sad because our country was at war and lots of people
were being killed. But then I added: "It’s OK to be sad, but I don’t want
sadness to win." I pointed to the two red hearts painted on my face and
asked what they represent. "Love," replied the elementary school students
in each of the 20 school assemblies I did from March 7 to April 7. "Right,"
I said, "and I want LOVE, not sadness, to win." Then I told them this
Sadako Sasaki (1) was two years old when the atomic bomb was dropped on her
city of Hiroshima. She wasn’t killed, but more than 100,000 others were. By
the time Sadako was in the 6th grade, she was the fastest child in her
class. One day after a race, she collapsed. Sadako had contracted leukemia
from the radiation from the atomic bomb. Her friend Chizuco told her about
the Japanese legend that your best wish will come true if you make 1000
origami cranes. Sadako made her wish (to get well so she could run again)
and began making the cranes. Her health started to improve. By the time she
had made 600, however, she was clearly getting worse and soon realized that
she was dying. She started to cry, knowing that she would never run again.
But she didn’t want sadness to win. She wanted love to win. So she sat up
and made one more crane. As she finished the crane, she made a second wish
and wrote that wish on the wings of her crane – "PEACE" – and prayed that
her crane would fly over the whole world as her prayer for peace.
When I asked students whether her wish came true, they all said "No." So I
probed the story a little deeper. Sadako gave the world her love (in the
form of a crane) as fully as she could in that final moment of her life.
Her classmates were so moved by her love and courage that they finished the
1000 cranes and then began writing letters to people all over Japan, asking
for donations so they could build a memorial to Sadako. And they did – a
30-foot arch in the Hiroshima Peace Park, with a statue of Sadako on the top
holding a crane over her head.
As children around the world heard of Sadako’s story, they began making
cranes and sending strands of 1000 cranes to hang from the arch. From
Sadako’s final crane has come many millions of cranes from all over the
world. So when I rephrased the question and asked whether sadness or love
won at Sadako’s death, the students answered, "Love."
In this time of war, how can we be like Sadako? How can God use us to work
a miracle of love? I told the students of my plans to visit Iraqi
children. When I suggested that the older students make paper cranes with
"PEACE" and "SALAAM" (the Arabic word for "peace") on their wings and
younger students cut out red hearts and write messages of love and hope on
them, they responded generously. More than 30 large envelopes of cranes and
hearts are awaiting their trip to the Middle East when the mission becomes
possible. Some students hung their cranes in their classrooms as a reminder
to pray for all Americans, Iraqis and others endangered by the war. Schools
with displays with "stars" for each US service person related to the
students added an additional star for Iraqi children. Other students sent
their cranes to political leaders imploring them to find peaceful ways of
dealing with conflict. I also encouraged the students and faculty to raise
money for All Our Children,
a special new fund for medicines for Iraqi children.
War is a time for profound sadness. But it is also a time for profound
love. As I realized moments after the first Persian Gulf War broke out in
January 1991, "in the face of escalating violence, escalate love." In the
midst of every crisis of violence, those who believe in a God of Love are
called to escalate love and work so that love, not sadness, is the final
Footnote - The story of Sadako, plus directions for making the origami
paper cranes, is variously presented in both the
Alternatives to Violence Christian Education & Elementary School Kit and
Alternatives to Violence Public School K-5 Kit.