By Earnestine Harris
[Excerpted from the July 14, 2000, World Tribune, p. 4]
By 1984 I had been on welfare for five years. I was a single mother with two daughters ages 11 and 12 and living with my boyfriend. I had little hope of changing my circumstances. I hated my life and felt worthless and inadequate.
I went to beauty school and got my license. Seven months passed and I still didn't have a job.
Around this time, my neighbor introduced me to Nichiren Daishonin's Buddhism. She told me to chant Nam Myoho-renge-kyo for my own happiness. I was skeptical of this Japanese woman but frankly felt I had nothing to lose. As I chanted and attended meetings, I became determined to show actual proof to my family. I started feeling relieved of my depression and I also felt more confident.
The time came for me to renew my eligibility for welfare. In the middle of completing the forms, I stopped and told my social worker that I didn't want welfare anymore. She asked me if I had a job. I told her no, I had Nam Myoho-renge-kyo. She looked at me like I was crazy but I was already feeling that I could overcome the financial poverty in my life. I chanted with the belief "I will get a job."
to get worse instead of better, but with the encouragement from the members
that "Winter never fails to turn into spring", I kept on chanting.
My family was totally against my practice, and said "this mess" — as they
called it — was doing nothing for me. I determined to try even harder to
find out for myself.
Slowly customers started to come. I was only able to collect enough each month to meet the booth rental.
It was at that time that a leader encouraged me to participate in the monthly contribution. I thought she must be crazy. I could barely pay for the publications. I did not know where the additional money would come from. Still I agreed to participate and challenged myself to stretch every dollar. I was able to participate each month without fail. More customers came, and I found that I was able to move into my own apartment with my two children. It felt so good to be able to pay my bills and take care of my family by myself.
During the May contribution, I saved tips and any extra money that I could. It was such a joy to present this money in support of this organization that had helped me find the guts to pursue my dreams.
Over the past 15 years, my business has grown to the point that I have my own salon and many local customers who have stuck with me through two changes in location. I am also a proud homeowner. I never thought I would have this kind of financial security and I know it is all through my hard work, consistent Buddhist practice, and faithful support of this great organization.
Nam Myoho-renge-kyo and taking bold action, I feel that I have totally
changed my life and can provide hope for my daughters that they can do