In the midst of a world at war, Eleanor Roosevelt captured the mood at Christmas 1942. "How completely the character of Christmas has changed this year," she wrote in her newspaper column. "I could no more say to you a 'Merry Christmas' without feeling a catch in my throat than I could fly to the moon!"
In September 1945, U. S. Navy chief radioman Walter G. Germann wrote his son from a ship anchored in Tokyo Bay to tell him that the formal surrender of Japan would soon be signed. "When you get a little older you may think war to be a great adventure -- take it from me, it's the most horrible thing ever done…I'll be home this Christmas..."
Home. To a world at peace.
In 1955 a thirteen-year-old Japanese girl died of "the atom bomb disease" -- radiation-induced leukemia. Sadako Sasaki was one of many who suffered the after-effects of those bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945.
Japanese myth has it that cranes live for a thousand years, and anyone who folds 1000 paper cranes will have a wish granted. So during her illness, Sadako folded paper cranes, and with each crane she wished that she would recover from her illness. She managed 644 cranes before she left this life behind.
Sadako's classmates folded the remaining 356 cranes so that she could be buried with a thousand paper cranes. Friends collected money from children all over Japan to erect a monument to Sadako in Hiroshima's Peace Park. The inscription reads:
This is our cry. This is our prayer. Peace on earth.
Each year people place paper cranes at the base of the statue to recall the tragedy of war and to celebrate humanity's undying hope for peace. In some places around the world, people fold paper cranes each holiday season to use as decorations and as a symbol of their deep desire for lasting peace.
I, too, have a deep desire for a day when war will become a relic of the past. I yearn for a day when we join hearts in union with one another, while beating swords into plowshares…and folding paper into cranes.
Peace on earth. The generation to accomplish it will truly be the greatest generation ever.
-- Steve Goodier