Merry Christmas! Yes, I’m a non believer who unabashedly celebrates Christmas, not as the birth of a baby 2000 years ago, but as the closest thing we have to a season in which we celebrate the hope for peace. So you will understand how for me, it is a very happy occassion to learn about The Rainbow World Fund and its World Tree of Hope.
In Hiroshima Peace Park, built to commemorate the victims of the first nuclear attack, there is a statue of a young girl holding a golden origami crane. On its base are inscribed these words: “This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world.” The memorial was built by the efforts of the classmates of Sadako Sasaki, the subject of that statue, who was only two years old when the United States dropped the nuclear bomb code-named “Little Boy” about a mile from where Sadako lived.
Ten years after Little Boy decimated Hiroshima, Sadako, like so many other Japanese civilians, came down with leukemia as a result of her exposure to radiation. The prognosis for anyone with leukemia in those days was “terminal”. There was no hope. A friend of Sadako’s, Chizuko Hamamoto, visiting her in the hospital, reminded the suffering girl of a Japanese fable; if one folded a thousand paper cranes, the gods would grant their wish. Then Chizuko picked up a gold-colored piece of paper and folded a crane, telling Sadako, “Here is your first one.”
So Sadako began folding paper cranes, hoping the gods would grant her a life beyond age twelve. On the wings of those cranes, she would write messages, like: “I will write peace on your wings and you will fly all over the world.” But after two months, with 356 cranes left to fold, Sadako died. Her grieving school friends folded the remaining cranes, and the thousand paper birds, along with wishes for peace and hope inscribed on them, were buried with Sadako.
For the past five years, The Rainbow World Fund, (RWF), an international LGBT organization offering humanitarian aid, has used the symbol of Sadako’s origami cranes to decorate their World Tree of Hope, a gift to the world from the LGBT community. Each year organizers in San Francisco ask the people of the world to send them their wishes for our future as a reminder that “We are all one human family.” The messages, over seven thousand of them, are written lovingly on the wings of white cranes and gold and silver stars folded by origami enthusiasts and volunteers they teach, and then hung on The World Tree of Hope which stands in the Grand Rotunda of San Francisco’s City Hall.
The tree itself is magnificent! It’s a twenty-foot white fir, donated by the Delancey Street Foundation, a San Francisco charity that runs a residential treatment center for drug abusers and ex-cons. It sparkles with lights and the handmade ornaments. But as a symbol of community, as a reminder of the ties that bind all men and women living on this big blue marble, as evidence peace is a common and a constant goal of people everywhere, The World Tree of Hope’s power to inspire dwarfs its physical beauty.
Anyone can make a wish. It costs nothing but some time and some thought, and a spark of hope in your heart. People the world over, from the famous and powerful, to the small and helpless, have sent their own wishes. Sec of State Hillary Clinton hoped: “For a world where all people are treated with dignity, respect and equality, no matter who you are or who you love.” President Obama’s wish is also on the tree: “I wish for a world for our children more just, more fair, and more kind than the one we know now.” My wish is the same wish Sadako Sasaki made: “ I will write peace on your wings, and you will fly all over the world”.
What would your wish be? You can leave it below if you’d like.
I wish all of you a Merry Christmas! But most of all, I wish you peace.