We live in a scary world. What used to be war between certain countries has become terrorism, and it poses the question where in the world there is still a chance for feeling entirely safe. The sad answer is that there is no such place anymore. Humans have always had the innate desire to harm and hurt each other, to take what they want regardless the means, and to get revenge regardless the consequences. With the creation of weapons of mass destruction, this desire has turned into a grave threat to humankind itself.
One place that has already suffered the deadly consequences of this threat is Hiroshima. I’d been wanting to go there for a long time in order to learn more about this dark chapter of human history and to visit the World Heritage Sites. Today, I finally succeeded.
After checking into my hostel in the late afternoon, I head straight out again to take a walk through the city, heading towards the Atomic Bomb Dome, aka the Peace Memorial. When I arrive at my destination, it’s about half an hour before sunset and the evening light is simply beautiful. The Dome is surrounded by big trees, their strong branches covered in moss and the rich green leaves forming a protective roof. A soothing sound is coming from a fountain. Elderly people are sitting on benches, while two young girls are walking by, talking and giggling. Also passing by are people jogging, riding their bikes or walking their dogs. A girl on the other side of the river is singing and playing the guitar. The water is glittering in the evening sun.
This scene is incredibly beautiful and doesn’t coincide with the Dome, which in the midst of all the tranquility and beauty, is an unmissable reminder of human hatefulness and destructiveness. Suddenly and unexpectedly, tears spring to my eyes. I honestly didn’t see that one coming. Despite being an emotional person who cries a lot (you know that by now, don’t you?), I’d never cried at any historical site I’d visited, no matter how dark the history.
Since there are people around and I don’t want to draw attention to myself, I fight back the tears and turn my face to the river. I sit down under a tree. As the thin, long branches soothingly blow in the evening breeze, a Japanese word flashes up in my mind, a word that I hadn’t thought about in a long time: Yanagi. Weeping willow. My first ever Japanese friend taught it to me eight years ago on a walk we took together through a park, on one of the last days we spent together. I never forgot this word and the friendship that had changed me forever.
I turn around to look at the Dome again and notice that the hedges around it are blooming in several colors. They remind me of what the father said to his worried son after the terrorist attacks in Paris last year: “They might have guns, but we have flowers.“
The last rays of sun are falling onto the ruins, and I’m wondering if having flowers is going to be enough. Maybe we need not only to have flowers, but to be flowers, for each other, and for the world. Like a flower growing from a ruin, we need to be forgiving and hopeful and always ready to start over. By doing so, we might be able to brighten up a dark place or maybe even someone’s darkened heart. We can’t change the past but we can shape the future, simply by being a friend to someone in this world.
Every friendship started is a another flower come to life.