Friends Are Forever

By Karen Fitzpatrick

I received a phone call at 11:00 PM last night from a person I introduced to Buddhism in California twelve years ago back in the ole NSA days.

I distinctly recall when I first told him about Nam Myoho-renge-kyo. It was about midnight, after one of those "too late meetings." I'd stopped by a liquor store where George was working a night job and bought a Reese's peanut butter cup. When I went to pay for it, I saw him behind the counter, and he looked so sad that I had to tell him about Nam Myoho-renge-kyo.

About a month after George had received Gohonzon, he told me that he'd taken that night job in the liquor store in hopes that someone would come in, rob him, and shoot him. A fairly safe bet in that neighborhood!

He practiced and managed to live through several accidents he caused by his drunkenness. I swear he had alcohol running in his veins! He practiced in the Young Men's Division for several years.

George had alcohol seizures as he sat beside me chanting twice. We all knew his alcoholism was serious. Then he just disappeared!

He'd stopped practicing, has become a millionaire, is still addicted, married a doctor with money, and made good investments. He got my number by calling the phone numbers he'd hung onto from years past. He is AGAIN beginning to work the 12 steps and wanted to do his "amends."

George's call to me included things like sincere apologies for lots of things: inappropriate behavior and words, lies, and stealing. But he was sincere when he thanked me for our friendship.

He said, "Karen, we never had sex but I could talk with you about anything. And I miss that." When he told me to please send him a dollar amount so he could repay me, I told him that the best thing he could do to make amends with us was to re-enshrine his Gohonzon, and begin to chant again, and tell other people about Nam Myoho-renge-kyo.

I gave him the phone number of a leader he knows in his area so he could locate the SGI easily. He said, "OK, Karen, I'll do it."

This was my first opportunity to see up close someone who had much financial fortune, but was miserable. George called me because he's now 40, and several of his friends had just died. One died of alcohol poisoning, one from shooting his head off, and another from a heroin overdose.

This was a wonderful wake-up call about how great our practice is. Financial fortune?! Pfah! I have a wealth of friends, something he lacked. Financial fortune can come and go. Friends are forever.