The Greatest Birthday Gift of All 

By Jacquie Farr, Missoula, Montana

I have been practicing Buddhism since 1985, thanks to my hero, Tina Turner. Although I've never met her, I'd heard her on television speaking of true Buddhism and an organization then called NSA.

It was an especially dark time in my life, but after listening to her and seeing that sparkle in her eyes, I knew that I had found what I was searching for. It took me almost a year of chanting by myself to this butsudan type thing that I had concocted, before I met a real member at the YWCA where I was teaching an exercise class. I received my Gohonzon the next week.

I knew that I was a member for life.

On January 1, 2000, at the New Year’s Day Gongyo meeting, I received an Omamari Gohonzon. I was so excited that I could hardly contain myself. It went everywhere with me on a chain around my neck. Whenever I needed a little pick me up, I'd give it a squeeze for assurance. I felt safe and honored — that is until January 18.

I own a sign and graphic design business here in Montana. That morning I had painted signs, and then changed out of my painting clothes to go to the mall with my kids. It was a fun day, that is, until I came home and discovered that the Gohonzon was not around my neck. I was frantic, I looked everywhere; I even drove the 30 miles back to the mall to check with the lost and found department. I checked the parking lot, retraced my steps that day, went back into every store that I had visited, still no Gohonzon. I tried to chant about it like any good Buddhist would do, but my life condition was so low that all I could do was cry in front of the Gohonzon and express how sorry I was that I had lost the Omamori.

I was afraid to tell anyone, especially my husband, who is very critical of me (he doesn't practice regularly) and I knew that I would get a lecture about being irresponsible for losing it, not to mention the $50.00 donation.

I suffered in private. I must have checked the envelope that it came in at least 10 times; each time it was (of course) empty. Days turned into weeks, and then months. I would think of it every time I got in the car, when I sat in front of my computer, at work, and when I got dressed in the morning.

I missed it so bad, and felt so bad for losing it. To me it was such a great honor to receive it, and I felt that I had somehow let down the organization by losing it. Out of pure fear, I still told no one.

Another month had almost come to an end. It was March 26, my 38th birthday. I had worked the entire day installing signage on an awning, and then I went to a restaurant for my free birthday dinner. I was feeling a bit blue, since no one had given me a card or actually acknowledged my day.

I reminded myself that my thoughts were petty and that old cliche about giving being better than receiving. It was 11:55 PM and I went downstairs to throw in the last load of laundry. As I was going through the hamper sorting clothing, I saw a chain, way down in the bottom. I reached down to get it, figuring that it was a necklace that belonged to my daughter.

I screamed. I screamed again. THANK YOU! THANK YOU! THANK YOU! To my great joy, it was my Omamori Gohonzon!

The law of the universe sometimes works in strange ways.