A simple act of peace

The Landmark View - January 26, 2005


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Every day we are bombarded with the images and descriptions of war. They have been an inescapable part of our lives for the past three years with no end in sight.

Occasionally, a ray of hope shines through all of the smoke. Simple acts of faith in the promise of peace.

In its simple way, the St. Mary School community has made its commitment to that dream of peace. Using the story of a Japanese girl who died of leukemia?"the eventual result of her exposure to radiation after the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima in 1945?"St. Mary's students and teachers set about to construct a gentle plea for peace.

It's a plea that doesn't choose sides and doesn't seek to place blame. Rather, like Sadako, the true-life subject of "Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes," the students learned the lesson of perseverance. Of continuing to seek something with determination, even in the face of overwhelming odds.

The result of that lesson is a striking display of 1,000 colorful paper cranes hanging from a St. Mary's hallway. The Sadako story has been adopted in Japan as a call for peace. A shrine to Sadako stands in the Hiroshima Peace Park, inscribed with the words "This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace in the world."

In the case of the St. Mary's project, the third-graders enlisted some help in their quest to erect their version of a Sadako memorial. The cranes themselves were folded by Erhard Vogt, the father-in-law of fifth-grade teacher Mary Vogt. Without his patient endeavor, the project would not have had the impact it has.

There are two ways to take the Sadako story. The first is a pessimistic view. The little girl folded over 1,000 cranes in order to make her dream of getting well come true. In fact, she died. Her efforts, on the surface were for naught.

The optimistic view?"the outlook the St. Mary's children and thousands of others before them chose to take?"was that Sadako's story continues to live on in spite of her death 50 years ago. And people throughout the world have continued to work for and make their pleas for peace in spite of the seemingly limitless human capacity to create suffering and make war.

Oftentimes, these small tokens of belief that peace is achievable are overlooked or merely patronized as naive dreams. But simple acts of faith in peace, like the one created at St. Mary's are at the core of what it means to be human in spite of all of the evidence we see, every day, to the contrary.

Thanks to all involved for the reminder.

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