Full of Appreciation
How Kazu and Teruko Iizuka’s heart of appreciation changed every aspect of their lives.
by Kazu and Teruko Iizuka
World Tribune: Thank you for sharing your experience with us today. How did you meet?
Teruko Iizuka: We met in New York while I was working and Kazu was a student, and we married in 2006. I truly felt that Kazu coming into my life was one of my greatest benefits. However, our honeymoon period lasted for less than a year.
WT: What happened?
Teruko: My first pregnancy was rocky, and doctors thought our baby might have a neurological defect. My fears were magnified by Kazu’s experience of losing a brother to muscular dystrophy. We feared having a sick child, and I had to quit my job as a systems engineer to rest and chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for the baby’s health.
Kazu: I had just graduated from college and started working in the transportation industry. Our finances were very tight, but we gained courage from chanting abundantly. We were determined to welcome a healthy baby into this world! In 2006, Lisa Akiko was born a healthy baby girl. We were overjoyed and filled with appreciation.
Teruko: We were so happy to have a second child, Sophie, in 2008. But with great joy came even greater challenges. A few months later, Kazu was fired at work and automatically lost his immigration status.
WT: That must have been so scary. How did you respond to this new challenge?
Kazu: I had no idea how we would survive as a family. I sought guidance from a senior in faith, who emphasized that Buddhism is reason. He said I should first focus on finding a job—any job—to support my family, while I chanted and pursued the career of my dreams. I prayed with the determination to find a job, no matter what! But, without a valid work visa, no company was willing to hire me. We struggled to survive on the money I earned from several part-time jobs, including at a deli and a liquor store.
Teruko: I was at home, changing diapers and nursing both babies throughout the day, with little sleep at night. I was not only exhausted but also anxious from all the uncertainty. My stress levels brought on abnormal bleeding, and I needed to have surgery during this already difficult time.
WT: What was your relationship like?
Teruko: Even small expenses became a big deal between us. When we were discouraged, we blamed each other, even though we knew it wouldn’t change anything. We felt like we were trying so hard, but nothing was happening, and we only seemed to be growing further and further apart.
When our older daughter started talking, she began saying, “Daddy, Daddy.” These words opened something closed off in my heart. I realized that I needed to raise my daughters together with Kazu, and that we had to unite to win. Even though we were struggling, we had the formula for victory: to unite, chant together joyfully and take action to overcome our challenges.
WT: It must have been almost impossible to make contributions during this time.
Kazu: When the May Commemorative Contribution activity came around, Teruko would propose an amount, and I would say, “It’s too much!” I had to chant profusely to break through my walls of doubt, and most of all, my belief that I would not be able to adequately provide for my family. I was scared to part with anything we had. But we determined to break through this obstacle as disciples of SGI President Ikeda.
Teruko: Through chanting so much together, I started to have appreciation for what we had right at that moment. In the midst of our struggles, my mind changed from seeing only the negative into appreciating the positive. I became grateful for the fortune we had already created, like having two happy, healthy daughters.
In The New Human Revolution, Sensei writes: “The offerings and financial contributions the organization solicited were exclusively to accomplish [Nichiren] Daishonin’s mandate to widely propagate the Mystic Law. Offerings made toward this end were equivalent to offerings made to the original Buddha. There was, then, no greater offering, no greater good. Certainly, nothing could bring greater benefit. This thought filled Shin’ichi [Yamamoto] with a sense of immeasurable good fortune and joy at having had the chance to make such offerings as a Soka Gakkai member” (vol. 4, pp. 115–16). This is how we feel.
WT: What was your turning point?
Kazu: Once we determined to make time to chant together, we became united, and things started to shift. In June 2009, I became a permanent U.S. resident, and after 15 months of job searching, I was hired as a profit analyst at a large Japanese financial institution.
Teruko: My health improved dramatically. Today, I feel healthier than ever. With deep appreciation, and a desire to support the organization that has helped us so much, we started to participate in Sustaining Contribution as well.
WT: What did you learn from this experience?
Kazu: It gave me the conviction that I could break through any obstacle with this practice. For instance, my new job got off to a slow start, but I was able to identify a new operating system at work that no one knew how to use, and I decided to master it. The management started to depend on me, because I was the only one who could operate this new system. Eventually, I received an award from the company president as a top employee. In my eight years with the company, I have been promoted three times, and my salary has more than doubled.
Teruko: Now that my daughters are older, I chanted to find a job to support our family as well. Three years ago, I found work as a part-time accountant at a company that I love. And we still make time to chant and do gongyo together as a family. Whatever we may face in the future, we know we can overcome it—together.
WT: What do you feel is your ultimate benefit?
Teruko: Ultimately, our greatest benefit is our fortune to be able to fight for kosen-rufu together with Sensei at this crucial time. Particularly in this month of May Contribution, we will encourage all our members to join us in this campaign with great confidence, joy and appreciation to the SGI and our mentor!