Nourishing the Seeds of Happiness
How Yoshiko Ford created true happiness and fortune through her 63 years of Buddhist practice.
by Yoshiko Ford
When I was 2, my mother was left to raise five children on her own after my parents divorced. Amid her struggles to provide for us, her doctor said she only had a few years to live, due to complications with severe high blood pressure. But with the promise of a Soka Gakkai member that she could transform her destiny, my mother received the Gohonzon on Aug. 26, 1956, in Japan. I was 8 years old.
Through faith, my mom extended her life by over 10 years, fulfilling her determination to live until I, her youngest child, turned 19. She lived victoriously, based on the motto “Nothing is impossible with the Gohonzon.”
My heart is full of gratitude for her, as I, too, have gained so much fortune from my practice. This includes meeting my amazing husband, Charles, who was stationed with the U.S. Navy in Japan. In 1971, when I was 23, we married and moved to his hometown of Mobile, Alabama.
At the time, we had our district activities in Pensacola, Florida (58 miles); study lectures in Montgomery, Alabama (168 miles); and kosen-rufu gongyo meetings in Atlanta (328 miles). Charles, who joined the SGI not long after we came to the U.S., would drive us to these distant activities.
In March 1974, my group leader called to tell me that SGI President Ikeda would be visiting New Orleans within a few
days for a meeting. I wanted to attend, but I had no one to care for my two small children. She encouraged me to use the power of prayer to overcome the situation, so I started chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo right away. Three days later, my husband’s family offered to support. And when my group leader called for the third time, I declared: “Yes, I will attend the meeting with Sensei!” I’m so appreciative for my leader, who never gave up on me.
On March 15, 1974, together with the district members, we arrived at the University of New Orleans, where 350 members had gathered from eight southern states. I sat in the very back of the hall, but I clearly remember President Ikeda’s warm smile embracing everyone. It had been three years since I moved to America, and I had many worries and uncertainties casting a shadow over my life. President Ikeda named the members in attendance the “Happiness Group” and vigorously encouraged us to become happy without fail (see p. 4 for more).
The meeting had planted a seed of happiness in my heart, which I would never forget. I’ve returned to this prime point in my most difficult times.
On our way home, even though it was late at night, we shared our determination with overflowing joy to fight together for kosen-rufu.
We had a group of only three or four members in the Mobile area at the time, but I was determined to fight for our growth. Through our united efforts, the area in and around Mobile became a district. Today, the district has become a chapter.
In 2007, I was appointed the Gulf Coast Chapter women’s leader. I took to heart President Ikeda’s guidance for leaders to take sincere actions for the members’ growth and happiness. I started visiting them one by one throughout the 100-plus miles that span the chapter. By supporting others on behalf of my mentor, my family and I created a lot of fortune and overcame many obstacles.
In 2013, my husband needed an urgent kidney transplant. His doctor warned us that it might take years to find a matching donor; time he didn’t have. Our son Lee ended up being a perfect match! Toward the operation, each morning, Charles and I started chanting 20 minutes and reading Sensei’s encouragement together. We haven’t stopped since.
Charles and Lee successfully underwent surgery on May 31 that year. However, this was not the end of my husband’s health challenges. Between 2015 and 2016, he had four more operations to remove skin cancer and another form of cancer near his throat and ear.
Then, in 2017, Charles developed lung cancer. That was around the time we were fighting toward the 50,000 Lions of Justice Festival, which was going to take place on Sept. 23, 2018. I not only supported my husband’s chemotherapy and recovery, but I also gave my 100 percent to the SGI. One of our grandchildren attended the 50K Festival, and I see great advancement toward our harmonious family, which includes three children, two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Charles defeated his cancers, and today he is in great health.
After passing the baton of the chapter women’s leadership to a wonderful successor this year, I determined to do my best as a member care advisor. And as a member of the Happiness Group, I will continue to advance in my human revolution, based on the vow I made with Sensei for the happiness of myself, my family and the bodhisattvas of Gulf Coast Chapter.
This is the best way to express my gratitude for the seed of happiness planted 45 years ago, which today has blossomed more than I could have ever dreamed. WT