Teaching Buddhism to the Children of the Desert

By Lora Ben

My name is Lora and this experience is dedicated to all of you who feel discouraged and separated from everything like I used to feel.

I am writing from the United States, from a little town in the middle of the Mojave Desert, which is situated in the southern part of California 2 hours north of Los Angeles.

I speak Italian because I was born and raised in Italy.

At the age of 33, I married an American Air Force service member and, in 1992, we transferred to California with our son Luca. At this time, I am here alone with my son, because my marriage ended when my husband chose to leave us for another woman in 1997.

Anyhow, that is old stuff now and I am alone but happier than I was during our marriage.

At the beginning of my life here, alone and far away from all my loved ones and my country, I felt like I was being punished for some unknown reason. But lately I understood that it is my mission being here, in this little town of 10,000 inhabitants.

It's very hard to do shakubuku here; however lately, I immersed myself in this mission of mine, the mission of guiding the local youths to become happy by introducing them to Nichiren's Buddhism.

The adults are not too keen on listening, because drugs and alcoholism prevail as a practice here. Since my son began attending high school, I have had the chance of coming in contact with many youths of either gender.

Many of them suffer because of broken families just like my son and they feel abandoned and neglected. Many turn to drugs, alcohol, shoplifting, and other types of crime as if in search of some kind of attention.

Thanks to my son, of whom I feel very proud, I am able to speak to many of them and some of them take part in our Buddhist activities. Furthermore, I have realized that the older they are, the harder it becomes to make them listen with their hearts, I have now dedicated myself in the formation of a group of much younger ones.

Through games and weekly activities, I introduce this practice to them. I began with two brothers, sons of a friend of mine who is a Jehovah's Witness. She did not like the idea of her sons, aged 12 and 10, practicing this Buddhism, but the boys like practicing.

Now after only a few months I have eleven kids between the ages of 5 and 11 and seven from 11 to 17 years of age. Next Sunday, three more youths (two males and one female) will join us in our weekly activities at our SFCC.

Perhaps one day even the parents will join us, who knows? The biggest benefit is that until now no parents are opposed to the decision of their children to practice. Sometimes we must take time to chant a little Daimoku, instead of complaining, so that we can see the true reason why things happen to us, and envision our real mission. This is my experience.

Lora