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For Japan: Wish on paper cranes

Watching the horrifying aftermath of the earthquake in Japan, all most of us can do is send our wishes.  It’s overwhelming, perplexing. It’s easier to just hide away and shut it out. But if you’re feeling too defeated by it all to even send hope out into the universe, this lovely drawing by Kelly Smith might give you a bit of inspiration.

Delicate and pretty, with Kelly’s trademark gentle linework and soft, pale shadings, this beautiful illustration takes inspiration from the story of Sadako Sasaki and her paper cranes- a true story that has now become a proverb of peace. Coincidentally, Kelly uploaded this image to her blog just minutes before she heard the news of the earthquake. And now, it resonates even more strongly.

Sadako was just two years old when the atomic bomb hit Hiroshima. She grew up into a bright, lively girl who loved to run races at school- which is why she didn’t tell anyone when she started having dizzy spells at the age of 12. One day though, she collapsed in front of teachers, and she was taken to hospital. It was then that her family discovered she had developed leukemia as a result of the bomb. She was given around a year to live.

While Sadako was in hospital, her best friend came to visit her and folded a paper crane from a piece of golden paper. She told Sadako about the ancient Japanese belief that if you could fold 1,000 cranes, you could have a wish granted.

So Sadako set about trying to make 1,000 cranes in her wish to get well. She got to 644 before she died. Her family and friends finished the rest and buried them with her.

There is now a statue of Sadako with a golden paper crane in her hands in the Hiroshima Peace Memorial, otherwise known as Genbaku Dome. The plaque reads, “This is our cry.  This is our prayer.  Peace in the world.” And every year, thousands of schoolchildren and visitors leave paper cranes at Sadako Sasaki’s memorial site to wish for a better future, where the innocent do not suffer.

Sadako’s story has come to represent all the children who died as a result of the atomic bomb, but its message extends far beyond even that. It’s a reminder of the innocent lives that are hurt, affected and lost in an act of brutality, whether it comes from war, or from nature itself.

But there is a childlike message of hope. Even as she was dying, Sadako was wishing on her paper cranes. And maybe sometimes wishing is all we can do.

Do what you can for Japan. And if you can’t do anything else, make a wish, with or without 1000 paper cranes.

*Kelly Smith is now selling prints of this image and donating 50% of the proceeds to the Australian Red Cross’ Japan appeal.

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