“It’s been more than sixty years since Sadako died. I was a junior high school student then, and I had a lot of feelings I couldn’t sort out at the time. But now I can understand the things that I learned from Sadako during her short life and the things that she hid in her heart.
In her brief twelve years, Sadako loved her family, and we loved her. Our parents showed compassion for Sadako during her illness, and Sadako showed compassion toward our parents during their financial difficulties. Sadako taught us the importance of “omoiyari-no-kokoro,” the showing consideration for others, no matter life’s circumstances.
In Japanese culture, omoiyari-no-kokoro, the act of showing empathy and concern, is taught from an early age and considered one of the most important things a child can learn in preschool.
Sadako folded her prayers into the origami cranes which she so earnestly made. The first thousand cranes were an ardent prayer that she would be cured of her illness. With the next thousand cranes, she prayed for our father’s debt to be resolved. Our family prayed for Sadako’s happiness. And Sadako, despite her illness, folded for ours. She folded so that she could go home, and for her family’s happiness.
What I learned from Sadako was that from a heart that values love and compassion, we can be in perfect empathy with one another, respecting and understanding one another deeply. Even when her leukemia worsened and her legs hurt so much that she couldn’t walk, Sadako still treated her family with compassion, thinking that if her family knew of her hardship, they would worry about her. So for those of us that have no worries, there’s no reason for us not to treat those around us with compassion.
When Sadako was in the hospital, not once did she say, “It hurts,” “I’m in pain,” or “Help me.” Not once did she speak with bitterness or hatred toward the atomic bomb or the country that dropped it on Hiroshima. I am also a hibakusha, but Sadako taught me to “forget” the name of the country which dropped the atomic bomb.
More than seventy years have passed since the war ended. There is no point in discussing whether the use of atomic bombs was right or not. The issue is what kind of ordeal the people of the world had to go through due to war. This should never be forgotten by any of the countries that participated. We need to teach our children the lesson that any war should not happen. The hearts of resentment and retaliation that can emerge from unforgettable experiences of the past should never be handed over to children who will hold the future in their hands. We must throw away our resentment. From hatred, only hatred and hearts of revenge will be born.
To move forward, we must unite with others. The wisest choice is to recognize and respect the differences in our ways of thinking, creating a new stage of hope that includes open discussions amongst all people. To overcome certain naturally existing differences between us, we should have a generous mind, accepting each other. This is the first step we should make and is the essence of omoiyari-no-kokoro. It is important to always keep it in our mind. Extending consideration and compassion to others is a security code that can open the doors of the hearts of all people living on this Earth.
Pure eyes of children, eyes seeking something, hearts of believing anything, we do not defile them with our egoism.
Sadako died when she was twelve. I imagine she wanted to play more, study more, talk with her friends more, eat more… There were lots of things she wanted to do. But her life ended before she had a chance to experience those things. Sadako was regretful because she didn’t have the opportunity to do them. Therefore, we should think about the incredible value our uneventful daily lives have. We should be thankful for walking, eating, playing, studying, the ordinary things we spend time doing every day.
Before her death, Sadako was aware that she had leukemia. That was why she became more and more compassionate toward our parents, as she did not want them to be sad and concerned about her.
In your daily life, you will face many problems and experience much happiness. And I suppose you will laugh a lot and shed a lot of tears. But you’ll also study a lot, and talk with your friends a lot. Do you think you are compassionate and caring to your friends? Do you practice omoiyari-no-kokoro?
Cry when you need to if you have a lot of troubles, but grow up with a kind heart, filled with compassion. When you are able to behave in that way, I am sure you will notice that you have changed. This is the way to create a small bit of peace in your surroundings. When we can connect such small bits of peace together, we will surely have greater hope of peace in the future. This proves that you are living your life to its fullest.”