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Dear Lucy – I know you must have wondered what the Lord done gotten you into. We were a wild bunch of kids, for sure. And Halloween wasn’t exactly in your religion. But sometimes you did what was necessary. And taking JC and her best friend Susan out for treat-or-treating was what was needed tonight.

While you got them dressed in their prettiest princess costumes, I was eavesdropping on my brother, Bo. He and his friend Charlie were plotting. Now Charlie was pretty tough. He was the youngest of four boys and Susan was his little sister. After Daddy cut off the never-ending supply of Beefaroni, Charlie was still hungry. He ate everything they fed him at home and then he rummaged through our kitchen for more. A can of meat was a can of meat. Rebbie’s dog food looked pretty tasty, at least the picture on the Ken-L-Ration label looked like meat, maybe even like Spam. One can and Charlie was hooked.

After a tasty snack, he and Bo were considering what might be their highest and best Halloween prank. Finding a brown paper lunch bag next to the can of dog food Charlie had recently consumed, they were inspired. “Dog food, dog poop, paper bag on fire” was all I heard. I watched as they crept down the stairs searching for a cigarette lighter.

Apparently Charlie had some experience with this flaming dog poop at the front door. As a matter of fact, it was a prank that everyone talked about, and few were able to successfully pull it. Based on the old “ring the bell and run” prank, the flames added a bit of urgency. Once the bell was rung, whoever answered the door would find a small bag on fire at their door. Quickly stomping the fire would cause the dog poop in the bag to cover one’s shoes.  It was a nasty little prank which rarely went well. Either the fire went out too soon or you were caught trying to run away. It was definitely an advanced art form.

But Charlie had plenty of practice after years of observing older siblings. He understood, at least intellectually, what was necessary and plotted their escape. The only question was who would be the recipient of this “under cover of darkness” prank. And that’s when my great powers of imagination kicked into gear. “Let’s do it to Nell.” She can’t go out tonight and she’ll think it’s funny. She’ll answer the door, and step in poop.

Since neither Charlie nor Bo thought much of Nell, she was a good target. And she was my very best friend, I thought, so I can get away with just about anything short of murder. She’ll think it’s funny. Although the day she raced around her yard, slipped and fell face first, mouth open into dog poop, wasn’t funny at all to her. It was actually pretty traumatic. I can’t imagine why I really thought this close encounter, so recently on the heels of the now unmentionable “poop in mouth,” would be amusing. Perhaps my sense of humor was askew – that’s what our school’s headmistress told me later in life. But for now, we were off.

But first, a bit more locate and scoop the poop into the bag. Bo, having plenty of experience setting things on fire, was ready with the lighter and some crumpled newspaper. I was the lookout, prepared to act innocent as Nell answered the door bell.

What happened next could not have been anticipated. And that, Lucy, is where you came in. Unbeknownst to the flaming tricksters, you were taking the little girls around the neighborhood. Your next house would be Nell’s. If you were lucky, you’d get invited into the kitchen to rest your feet while the girls paraded before Uncle Fitz and Aunt Heidi who were relaxing in front of the living room fireplace, savoring their second, or was it their third, glass of sherry.

There was a scuffle at the front door as the bag refused to light. Bo fussed with the paper in the bag and then, after a few tries, he had hot flames dancing ankle high. He and Charlie tore around the side of the house, falling over themselves laughing, as I rang the bell. Obviously, in hindsight, there were a few flies in this ointment. I had figured that Nell would answer the door. First mistake. I had also counted on acting innocent and knowing nothing about the fire on the stoop. Second mistake. And none of us had imagined that you, Lucy, and the little sisters would appear on the front walk just as all this was happening.

We were caught. At least by Lucy who witnessed the entire spectacle. Imagine your horror when you understood that the children in your charge were involved in this.  I was also highly suspect when Mr. Henry, the butler, found me laughing hysterically as I tried to ask for Nell. I could barely choke out the words “Is Nell home?” No amount of protests and pretending to know nothing about this would suffice.

Once the flames had been hurriedly extinguished, with a bucket of water fetched from the kitchen, rather than someone’s shoe, we were marched around to the back door. Mr. Henry, ever imperturbable, had quietly closed the living room so that Uncle Fitz and Aunt Heidi wouldn’t be disturbed. Although some of us still thought this little prank was kind of funny, others weren’t sure that the eventual outcome might not be a spanking.

Now neighborhood kids know who gets the worst spankings. Top of the list was poor Jeffy Miller whose father dragged him by the ear to a remote third floor room and wailed on him until he promised never to do whatever it was again. My father was close to the top having recently broken one of mother’s good silver hairbrushes on my brother’s rear end. At the bottom of this list were the kids in Charlie’s family. Their parents didn’t believe in spanking. It was quickly decided, in the perp walk from the front to the back door, that Charlie would take the rap for this escapade.

Lucy, I know you knew there were others involved. I can’t count the many times that you looked the other way, or helped us avoid a beating. And the hundreds of times we put your job on the line. But, we didn’t know then that you’d get fired if anyone found out what had happened – at least until things settled down in the neighborhood. So, in a sense, you were just giving yourself some job security as you tried to take care of us crazy kids.

I still remember many days later, after being grounded by my parents because they had heard through the grapevine about this incident and knew, regardless of what you said, Lucy, that somehow we were involved, when I returned to the scene of the crime for the first time. Aunt Heidi had heard the party line. It was Charlie, and she assumed, his brothers who had played this nasty prank. Once again, I could hardly keep a straight face. In fact, Lucy, I can barely stop laughing right now, just remembering it.

As I followed Aunt Heidi through her lavish home, I wished that I had only waited another hour for Nell to get home from school before I rang the bell. Thank goodness her back was to me as we walked through the house. Aunt Heidi offered me a seat in the den, continued her speculation on what might have prompted children to play such a dangerous prank, and buzzed for refreshments. It was the longest hour of my life. Maybe that was punishment enough.

poo

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All at once, Nell and Sandy burst into my house. Throwing the back door open, screaming for help, they were obviously terrified. I threw my book aside to see what the matter was. They could barely catch their breath to explain. The only words that tumbled out were “Henry, he’s after us.”

Now, I had little cause to associate with Henry. Sure, he lived across the street from me, but he was older and we went to different schools. Nell and Sandy, however, went to Calvert School with him. They saw him every day and as neighborhood children, there must have been some interaction. I spent my childhood trying to escape any such interaction and buried myself in books. Apparently, Nell, Sandy, and Henry were now immersed in some real life drama and I was about to be pulled into it.

We ran through the house, ensuring that doors were shut and locked. Being late spring with a bit of chill in the air, the windows were still shut. My parents were out, leaving the three of us alone in the house. Henry was older, bigger, stronger, and kind of frightening. His lips turned up in a perpetual leer. He was the neighborhood scary guy, not a brute but frightening all the same. Once we were assured that the house was safely locked, we retreated to my parents’ bedroom on the second floor. From here, we could share the details of this ordeal and plot a strategy to get Nell and Sandy safely back home.

As breathing returned to normal, the story came out. Nell and Sandy had been taunting Henry all week and he had jumped out at them as they walked through the neighborhood. He was simply playing big bad wolf to their innocence. Nevertheless, we were young enough to be scared silly. And we had options. We could tell our parents and get Henry in trouble. However, our parents rarely spoke to Henry’s parents and it was unlikely that we’d get any support for this high level action.

Next option, we could sneak Nell and Sandy out the back door and hope they would make it safely home. After all, they lived next door. Henry, even at his worst, could only chase one of them. We could all run screaming down the hill together to Sandy’s house, and find safety there first. Then I could stay with Nell who had a longer run home and play at her house until my parents came home. We now had a plan. We could feel safe. Just as we heaved a great sigh of relief, a huge hand appeared on my parent’s bedroom window.

We all three screamed, squealed, and began running in circles at once. Henry had found a ladder and climbed onto the flat roof over the side porch. He was now trying to pry open a window on my parents’ sun porch. He looked mad and seemed determined to get in. Finally, Henry was going to get his revenge on every little kid in the neighborhood who had ever tormented and mocked him. The three of us were prime candidates. This wolf was going to eat us. The pigs screamed and squealed even more. We were trapped with just seconds before Henry broke open a window and released the latch. Doomed.

As we ran in circles screaming through the bedroom, in that moment, I noticed an important development. My father’s Cadillac had just turned into the driveway. In minutes, we would be safe. Henry was incredulous. He was unbelieving as we told him my parents were home. Surely, this was some sort of trick. He continued prying open a window. Whatever Nell and Sandy had said to him, they had definitely hit a nerve. Henry was going to get his revenge and now.

As my mother came up into the bedroom, all she could hear was children screaming, threatening to “tell.” Her eyes lit upon Henry on the roof. Before she could ask, the words spilled out from three squealing pigs. “He’s chasing us,” “He’s trying to get us,” He’s breaking a window to get in,” “He used a ladder and climbed up to get us.” And about the same time, my father, once he had parked the car in the garage, noticed a ladder leaning against this side porch and could hear the screaming and shouts from inside the house.

Moving quickly around to the porch, my father spotted the twelve year old Henry monster. By now, Henry had seen my mother inside the bedroom. He knew that his goose was pretty well cooked. My father helped him down the ladder and off the roof with an admonishment to get on home and leave the little kids alone. So there Henry. “Nanny-nanny-boo-boo. You’re not gonna get us.” But we were not done yet.

Unable to reveal all the details to my parents, we were released for further plotting and strategy sessions. It was obvious to us that Henry had been not only thwarted by my parents’ return home, but he had lost this small skirmish. Henry’s mother would not look kindly on her “never could do any wrong” son involved in this sort of behavior. Actually, she would never believe that Henry had ever deigned to get involved with the neighborhood riff-raff. After all, their family lived in what looked like a stone castle. They were from high society Boston, they were untouchable. We were just Baltimore kids.

Because Henry had been escorted from the roof, we figured that he must have been frightened. Usually, my father was the spanker in the neighborhood. Everyone knew this. My brother was constantly telling tales of how badly he had been beaten after some escapade. Henry must have thought my father was going to light into him too. And, with that, we had a plan. Obviously, in his fear, Henry had left his balls behind on the roof. Scared out of his wits, his machismo, his balls must be rolling around the gutters of our side porch roof.

And we, as the saviors of Henry’s manhood, must definitely return his balls. Reaching atop my father’s closet shelf, we fetched a can of tennis balls. Perfect, there was one ball remaining in the can – enough to launch the plan. Now that we were safe, a trip to Sandy’s house was in order. After all, he had the small dog whose hair we could clip. Borrowing scissors from his father’s medical bag, Sandy held the multi-colored small Corgi dog as Nell snipped its coat. Amidst all the giggles and plans, it’s a marvel that dog survived. But we now had a handful of Henry colored dog hair.

Glue. Certainly someone had some glue. Rifling through the kitchen drawer, filled with assorted bit of string, keys, nails, and papers, we found a large bottle of Elmer’s glue. Covering the tennis ball with glue, we then coated it with dog hair. It dried quickly to perfection. Henry’s ball. Just as we had planned.

The next step required a bit more strategy. How were we going to deliver Henry’s ball back to him? Who should do this? Deciding that safety resided in numbers, all three small musketeers joined forces. Remember, this was never my fight. But Henry had climbed onto my roof and I was the kid with the wild ideas and creative imagination. I was going to see this through.

Cautiously we advanced. Peals of laughter echoed through the hills of poplar as we crossed the road to Henry’s stone fort. This was going to be so much fun – such an easy way to get back at Henry. Wait. Who’s going to ring the bell? What will we say? Heads together, it was decided. Since I had no dog in his hunt, I’d ring the bell leaving Nell and Sandy safely free of any involvement. Sounded like a great plan. I rang the bell. We held our collective breath and waited. And waited some more.

Now what? All this planning and no one home? What to do now? We were immersed in a major reconnoiter and barely noticed as Henry’s mother opened the door. This was unexpected. We hadn’t really thought this through. Boldly, I asked, “Is Henry home?” His mother, sensing that something was not quite right if the riff-raff were ringing her doorbell and it wasn’t Halloween, asked what we wanted with Henry. We had nothing to say. Looking at each other, I lied, “We want to play with him.” And this was surely not to be. “Henry is in his room, he cannot come out,” she said in her impeccable, upper class Boston accent. “What do you children want with him?”

Glancing around, we nodded. The truth was about to be revealed. We launched our nasty missile across her transom. “Henry was on our roof and he left one of his balls there. We wanted to give it back to him.” And plop, into her outstretched cold hand, we delivered Henry’s hairy ball and ran away, howling with laughter.ball

All the fun things happened in the summertime. Just send me away to camp and the fun can begin. No matter how much spin my parents put on it, summer camp didn’t sound like much fun. No matter how many other girls were going, including my used-to-be best friend Carolyn, it was just another opportunity to get rid of me.

Maybe I was an ungrateful child, maybe I was jaded. Summer vacations, since I was 8 years old and old enough to be left in the very capable hands of an Eastern Airlines stewardess, meant leaving home, flying to Florida. All the fun of the summer happened without me. After all, I was the ugly duckling in the family. The one who would rather read than run the boardwalk. The one who raised her voice to injustice from an early age – the protector of the downtrodden, the questioner of the order of things. I was a painful child for my mother and years of hearing “I wish you were dead” from her felt like reality. Summer camp meant dead to my mother, gone from her attractive nuclear family.

And so it was decided. I would go to summer camp. My father would drive me and Carolyn, round and round until we reached the mountaintop and deposit us, along with our navy blue steamer trunks, at this ever-so-nice place of magic and mystery, Camp . It was my first experience at summer camp – dusty trails from cabin to lake, a pine cabin housing a dozen girls in greymetal framed bunk bed; our steamer trunks providing a center divider to the room, a place to gather. At least we had a bathroom in the cabin – I would have drawn the line at trekking outside in nature to use the facilities. Not that my line drawing would have had any impact.

I couldn’t find enough activities to fill my day. Swimming – check. Reading – not an activity. Bicycling – not possible on the rocky trails. Nature – hated that, still do. Art – not my thing. Riding – only for the girls who brought their own horses – uncheck. And then, encouragement from an overly solicitous counselor, “Why don’t you try Archery? It’s really fun. You’ll see.” As my daily schedule filled with things I didn’t want to do and things that were promised to be fun, I realized I was trapped. Choice was only a faint façade of options.

My letters home went unanswered. There was no way out. Archery became a form of physical torture – each time an arrow was released, the bowstring grazed my inner arm. By day 2, there were welts on my arm. A few more days, a few more arrows, and my arm began to bleed. Of course, this was my fault. If only I could do it right, pull the string back as instructed, curve my arm away from the twanging bowstring…my pleas for release from Archery went unheard. Blame the victim; it’s the fault of the little girl who doesn’t know how to have fun.

And then the postcards started coming. “Having a great time at the beach.” “Your little sister got lost yesterday, but the beach police found her and, by the time we arrived to pick her up, she was happily eating an ice cream cone. We’re having lots of fun. Hope you like camp.” Hell, no. I don’t like camp.

At least we were too young for bullying. Elementary school is still an age of supposed innocence. The girls made friends; I watched over their budding friendships, the hand holding, the giggles, the friendship bracelets made. And me, well there were books. The Happy Hollisters and Bobbsey Twins became my very best friends. Each time I opened my trunk, Bert and Nan popped out, taking hold

of my misery and shoving it aside. It was an “AHA!” moment – I had

happy hollisters

friends after all. Now, nothing was sweeter than bunk time, time to read. Write letters home? Hell, no.

bobbsey twins

I’m 10 years old tomorrow. At least my grandson will be 10 tomorrow. Thinking about that time in life, not that time when life was good, but 10 was pretty formative. I was almost kidnapped, left with a lifelong fear of having my picture taken, humiliated by a bunch of wrong color daisies, and found out to be kind of geeky. It was, as they say, a mighty good year.

The father-daughter dinner was the highlight of my 4th grade year. A chance to spend an evening on the arm of my father – just us guys, away from my mother. But before we could get to that exciting dress in your best dancing class dress evening, Mother had to shine the bright light on herself. What? A photo opportunity in the Sunday paper? That would be lovely. Please come by with your photographer on Thursday. We’ll be ready. What’s that? You’d like one of the other mothers in the picture as well? Certainly, I understand. Yes, Mrs. Marbury is the head of the dinner committee. It’s only reasonable to include her and Frances as well. The subtext being – terribly disappointed that I must share the limelight but I am, after all, so much more attractive. No contest.

And so, Frances and I dressed in our best party dresses and smiled for the camera. Our mothers looked over our shoulders. The article mentioned our names and our school affiliation in glowing terms. We were the young belles of the 4th grade ball. What could possibly be better? I’m thinking now that better would be if recently released prisoners didn’t buy newspapers. Especially those with a predilection for young girls, those they wanted to kidnap and molest.

I guess Frances got a pass. Maybe her mother wasn’t as pretty as mine. In the looks competition, Frances and I were pretty much equal – both tall, a bit pudgy, and not at all cute or pretty. We were the smart girls. For some unknown reason, I made it to the top of the kidnappers list. And he began to track my movements. And luckily for him, my parents thought it would do me good to walk to and from school. Yes, two miles in the snow too.

He had a dark gray sedan. I noticed because he kept driving past me. We lived on a quiet street, not many cars chose to make the steep climb around blind curves up from Falls Road to Roland Avenue. There was no sidewalk, but there was a walking path, elevated above the roadway, trodden daily by our maids. I knew everyone who drove by; waved to the delivery truck from Eddie’s and the Good Humor man. Most days, I had a couple of neighborhood friends who walked with me.

He stopped and held up a piece of paper. “Did I know…” – I froze as he read my name. I lied. “No.” “Does she live around here?” “I don’t know.” After years of beatings, I had an uncanny ability to dissociate, to disappear from reality when threatened. So I vanished and walked on. Rather than tell anyone what had happened, I forgot about it. Life went on.

Shortly thereafter, my parents were summoned to the living room to meet with a detective. I was banished to my room without the opportunity to eavesdrop.  Long story short, he had been apprehended. There was a long list of young girls in his hand. I was right on the top. Word quickly spread through the neighborhood. Parents no longer allowed their daughters to walk to school. My parents took me aside and cautioned me never to have my picture taken again. And then, since the danger was obviously past, allowed me to walk to and from school – alone.MLG 8

It’s summer; for me a time of change with big plans afoot. I’m pulling up my tent stakes, rolling up the sleeping rug, and fastening the frying pan to my knapsack. The journey has been mapped, a new camp site secured near the beach – so simple and so sure. Step by step, I am making my way into the future, towards the room of my own – just a place to write.

A good friend offers room, board, and financial support so that I can write, and then the money turns and runs. The sun dims over the beach as lightning strikes, illuminating the way to the mountains. Another good friend offers to share her place so that I can write and write. And then, as fast as that offer appears, it vanishes. I’m three weeks away from moving and another week is lost in endless strategizing – where will I go, how will I live, what about the money? The dream is forgotten as the minutiae of life take over.

This turmoil throws my life into mental overdrive, so I chant. Mostly I seem to chant to and about the problem, forgetting the dream, the original impetus for this move. My room – a place to write.  I chant about my mission and then worry about the money. I chant about the place and forget about my mission. The more I chant, the more I feel like Dorothy, swirling in the tornado. One thing seems certain – Orlando was no longer on the pages of my coloring book. I didn’t even have its colors in my crayon box.  It was time to go. Or maybe not. I am so confused, I can’t even see the path anymore.

In point of fact, I am now two weeks away from moving. Plenty of time and maybe not enough time to change direction.  Certainly not enough money. Still, my mind is in a swirl, a haze of confusion….where to go, what to do. Forgetting my original determination, I am obsessed with places, money, possessions. Silently, and with a surprising degree of stealth, the devil king of the sixth heaven has taken up residence on my shoulder. He whispers constantly, “You need to make money, how will you move all that furniture, you need to find a job, where will you live, this will never work out.” A week of pummeling by DK6 himself and I have forgotten all my dreams. I have no mission.

Funny thing about DK6 though. He is quite vulnerable to passionate daimoku. It literally knocks the winds from his sails. Minute by minute, he is beaten and vanquished. Sure, it took another week. But now I remember who am I and why I am taking my show on the road. I just want a room of my own, a place to write. I have a mission, to change the world, to share my joy, and to show absolute, actual proof that everything is possible with the Gohonzon and Nam Myoho Renge Kyo. Life’s potential is unlimited. I am the writer, the creator of my destiny; unfettered by doubts, resolutely victorious over DK6.

The beach is again my destination – one more stepping stone on my journey. Forget about the money. With a room of my own, I will write. I will face each challenge head-on, with daimoku engaged; I will win.

As Sensei says, “I forged ahead with this conviction, of being a protagonist for kosen-rufu. I encouraged members who were worn down by the storms of karma or discouraged by life’s difficulties. I chanted with all my heart and being. I pressed forward tirelessly with hope and courage to open the way for a brighter future. It was one daunting mountain after another. The road was never easy. This will always be the case. Kosen-rufu is an unprecedented endeavor for the happiness for all humanity. Precisely because it is so difficult, the benefit we accrue through our efforts is immeasurable.” (Living Buddhism, June 2013, p. 29)

Funny – I was wondering how to help. And then I got an email from the President, my President, Barack Obama. And here’s what I had to say, from my email to his.

 

Sandy Hook is an American crisis, and as Americans who care about our future and our children are the future, we have a problem that we can actually solve. It’s real and it’s finally time to come together, to be the change that we all want. No more killing fields in American schools.

 

So, let’s work together and solve the interconnected problems of mental illness, a culture promoting violence in multimedia, and gun control. Consider this – a society which allows a citizen to purchase guns without asking a qualified medical or mental health professional to ask some serious questions about gun safety/intent/household residents/etc. is asking for trouble. A parent who keeps guns while a mentally challenged/depressed family member is in residence is a menace to society.

 

And what about this – since Reagan wiped the US clean of all mental health facilities and funding for mental health, people have had no access to quality mental health care – especially if you are poor and have no health insurance. If you’re middle class, you might see a counselor, get some drugs, and at least have your parents stand between your out of control behavior and the prison system.

 

But, if you’re poor or your parents are overwhelmed, your mentally confused, untreated behavior will land you in DJJ and then shunt you off to prison.  America has criminalized mental illness. Instead of helping our young prison population through education and counseling, we further torture these mentally/emotionally/developmentally challenged citizens by placing them in solitary confinement – often for life. Think about it.

 

And to add some fuel to this fire…..let this mentally or developmentally challenged youth spend 24/7/365 playing engaging, violent video games, watching movies with a high degree of violence, withdrawing further and further from “civilized’ society. Any grad student in psychology worth her salt can tell you, exposure to violence will change your brain. 

 

Isolation + Violent Culture + Guns = Homegrown American Terrorists killing our children

 

Count me in – this is CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN!!!

 

SGI President Daisaku Ikeda writes, “Having good friends is like being equipped with a powerful auxiliary engine. When we encounter a steep hill or an obstacle, we can encourage each other and find the strength to keep pressing forward.” 

Just when things are going smoothly….my new job is going well…there’s always hope for a great man to appear and sweep me off my feet….just at that moment, the phone rings. Unusual, because it’s my nine year old grandson who never calls me and rarely speaks to me when I call his brothers. He’s in the car with his mother, my Portland SGI daughter Nicole, and on the way to the hospital. He only wants to talk to Grammy. .And he’s hurt and in pain. He thinks he’s broken his arm after falling off his bike.

As only a grandmother can do, I talk him beyond his immediate pain, sharing stories of aunts, uncles, brothers and sisters, even his own mom, who have broken things. It’s a long drive to the hospital and, by the time he arrives at the emergency room, he is laughing and excited about the cast that his fan club can sign.

For me, the real emergency begins now. I am thousands of miles away from him. Fortunately, daimoku reaches across the universe and penetrates the thick walls of hospitals. When my daughter sends me a photo of the X-ray, it is apparent that this is a very bad break; in fact, it’s a broken elbow and immediate surgery is needed. I am at a meeting with my SGI district, and we do Gongyo together and include Tyronn in our prayers. By the time I arrive home, Tyronn has called me again. The doctors have put him on a morphine drip; he’s feeling no pain. He understands that he’ll be having surgery in an hour or so. After we rehearse what he can expect during his hospital stay, he sweetly says, “I love you, Grammy.” My heart melts and I can’t hold back my tears.

In reality, I am scared. A medical emergency with any one of my children reminds me of the emergency many years ago with my son, Stephane, who didn’t make it through. Although I put on a brave face for Nicole and Tyronn, I am frightened. I want to collapse, but fortunately daimoku is what the doctor really has ordered. I put out a daimoku and prayers “all-call” via Facebook and text to friends and family.  My daughter does the same. Within hours, we are joined by SGI members across the US, chanting for our little Elementary School Division hero’s successful surgery and quick recovery. My niece “proclaims” in her prayers Tyronn’s fast healing with no pain.

And now I am truly overwhelmed. Collective daimoku empowers doctors, nurses, little boys, grandparents, and mothers. We are the roar of the lion. Midway through, however, I am overcome – not with grief, but with tears of appreciation. I belong to the SGI – this amazing network of people filled with compassion and power. I can feel the SGI engine moving me and my family towards victory. Tyronn’s surgery is successful; by mid-morning he has been released and is in no pain. One week later, he proudly displays his shoulder to wrist cast with more than 50 signatures from his friends. Once again, we have won.

As the saying goes, friendship doubles our joy and halves our sorrows.

SGI President Ikeda says, “Let us continue exerting ourselves wholeheartedly in faith and taking sincere action to create unity in diversity – many in body but one in mind – and thereby further expand our harmonious community of practitioners…For this itself is the path to kosen-rufu and is a sure step toward world peace.” (Living Buddhism, October 2012, p. 16)