Cranes are spinning silently over the mahogany pews of First Congregational. Folded by grown-ups, by children, by seniors and adults, by teens … these 1,700 cranes represent our dedication to compassion and peace.
It is a well- known story; a little girl from Hiroshima named Sadako was two years old when the atomic bomb fell on Hiroshima. It obliterated some 80,000 lives immediately, and made a wasteland of what had been a busy military city. Ten years later, she was diagnosed with leukemia from the radiation, and while in hospital, she heard about an old Japanese legend that says the gods will grant a wish to any person who folds 1,000 paper cranes. Wishing to live, Sadako folded cranes from any piece of paper she could find.She lived to fold 644 cranes before the leukemia took her life, like so many others.
And this is where her story both ends and begins. The children in her class at school decided to fold the remaining cranes, but they didn’t stop there. They wrote down her story and made a little book which was distributed in what were likely mimeographed packets. They also began to advocate that a Peace center be built in Hiroshima, and in 1955 a statue of Sadako with a paper crane was erected and dedicated as a place of prayer for peace. Now, the folded paper crane stands for hope in the face of mighty dangers: war, atomic weapons, cancer.
Those may be mighty dangers, but let us save our respect for that which brings life.
Respect for that which heals. Respect for tenacity in the face of destruction, for cities that rise from ashes. Respect for children who publish the story of radiation sickness when their government suppressed the story. Respect even for tiny plants that push through concrete, of survivors who tell unpopular stories, of those who seize life in the midst of sickness. Respect for a simple piece of paper can be folded into a protest.
Come see the cranes fly silently over the sanctuary at First Congregational, and let your respect become part of a voice for peace.
The Rev. Elena Larssen, Senior Minister