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zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly.
spread cranes for peace:
the original post about forgiveness without borders.

It's funny and weird how you can go from wanting to completely disappear one day, to suddenly having something to devote your life to the next. Today, I met somebody that I know I'm never going to forget, not ever. Her name is Emiko Okada and she's an A-bomb survivor from Hiroshima.

I don't know what I can say to express what happened. It's not enough for me to tell you that she gave us one of those "eye-witness" accounts about what happened to her that day. She really inspired me, but even now I'm not sure what she inspired me to do. I want to help her promote her message. I just can't believe I met her. I don't know what to do.

That day on August 6th, 70,000 people died instantly. By the end of the year, another 70,000 died from the effects. I can't even begin to describe the horrors of even the aftermath. I had no idea that even Hibakusha were ostracized in Japan and called monsters. It wasn't even their fault. That day when her sister left, she said "see you later" and never returned. Her mother went out every day for three months looking for her and they never found her. Ms. Okada has an extreme case of anemia, and her daughter (who was born much later) has a blood disorder, too.

When she was telling us her story, there were several times when I could hear her throat tighten like she was about to cry. It's different from survivors of, say, the Titanic. When they die, they'll take everything with them, and all we have is what they remember. Even when all the survivors have died, their children will continue to pass on disorders and cancers and all kinds of things to their children, and who knows when it will end?

But this isn't about what happened that day. Everyone more or less knows what happened that day. What this is about is Ms. Okada's message. It was because what she went through when she was only eight, and because she remembered her mother's suffering as she searched for her sister, that she would never wish war on anyone. Because of nuclear weaponry, a small handful of people have the power to take out the world. Nothing good ever comes of war, people know that. But it's so easy to forget.

She gave us all paper cranes, a symbol of peace and happiness. Then she gave us paper airplanes with cranes on them, that her granddaughter made. Because instead of dropping bombs, airplanes should be carrying hope. That's what she said.

After class I really wanted to talk to her, but I didn't know what to say. At first I thought I just wanted to hug her, and I know it sounds so silly and childlike, but when I went after her to ask for a hug, I started to cry. But she gave me a hug and she said I was a good kid, and that everything was okay. I asked her about what she thought of Lebanon, and I explained to her about Israel and Lebanon, and I don't even know why. But she said I was young, and I was good, and that I could still let myself forgive. She held my hand but I only cried more and hugged her again. She told me to come see her someday in Hiroshima. She told everyone to spread a message of peace.

I do want to spread her message, really I do. But I don't know how. I don't know what to do that'd make people pay attention. I think society is so used to shock value that even the most radical of things doesn't phase anybody, but I couldn't be radical if I tried. I just want people to be peaceful and forgive. What am I supposed to do?

I don't know yet, but someday, I'm going to Hiroshima. I'll never forget Ms. Okada, not ever, and I wish other people knew who she is. She's the person who changed my life.

I don't know if anything will happen to the cranes or if it'll extend beyond the people that read my journal, but it's an easy thing to spread it around. Right-click and save one of the colorful cranes below and upload them to your own server. (Don't have a server? Host images for free on photobucket.) Then, using the code below, all you have to do is replace "YOUR IMAGE HERE" with the link to your new crane. Post it on your website, your blog, wherever you can. After all, even the smallest action, in the future, could make a big difference.

two years later:
the state of the cranes.

Today is August 14th, 2009. In just two months, the Cranes project will be two years old. Since the Cranes first surfaced, this idea has received attention from people all over the world. I've heard all kinds of stories of people talking about the Cranes on their campus radio, a church that had "spread cranes for peace" written outside of it, and NHK has even come to interview me on it twice. Sometimes I think of my post as a small stone and as everyone who believed in it to be the hand that tossed it into the river. The Cranes aren't much, but thanks to you guys, they made quite a few ripples in the pond.

Cranes still has a Facebook group with hundreds of members, for which I'm grateful. But if you've come here confused, it's probably because you noticed that I deleted the Cranes for Peace community. If you're wondering why, it's because the community simply wasn't seeing any activity. Moreover, I don't want Cranes for Peace to be known as a campaign about world peace. Does this mean that I no longer believe in the Cranes? No; if that were the case, this post would no longer be here. It simply means that I don't want to be seen as someone who is promising something to people that I cannot give you.

What is Cranes for Peace meant to do? I know I've been told that the project won't "bear any real fruit," in those exact words. And I hate to pour myself into something I truly care about to have people constantly discourage me and say the same things over and over. Even if I may set the bar high, I still look like less of a fool for striving towards my goals than the people who mistakenly believe I'm naive. I believe in what I'm doing. I don't plan on being revolutionary. But my heart's still in it.

The message I got from Ms. Okada that day was too powerful to just come home, blog about it, go to bed, lather, rinse and repeat. When she first told us her "testimony," even knowing the history of Japan and their crimes in war, I felt a pang of guilt just for being born here. I expected her to be angry and bitter at everyone she felt to be responsible for destroying life as she knew it. But she wasn't. And I was moved by the strength and courage I knew it must have taken for her to get over that. What I really want, and what I really mean to do, is to help people get over that, too.

If only the world was more receptive to things like compassion and mercy and love, the kinds of things that have become so foreign that we think they're only reserved for stories with happy endings, maybe something will happen. Something good. The Cranes are still here. The deletion of a community will not change that.

once again, thank you to everyone.
without you, this wouldn't have been possible. thank you.
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