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It Takes Courage to Become Happy

SGI-USA Vice General Director Lee Malone (right) enjoys talking with a men’s division member, Weston, Fla., Nov. 9. Photo by VICTOR GOLDEN.

With “home visits” and “personal encouragement” as the bywords for the SGI-USA in 2019, this World Tribune series features SGI-USA leaders who discuss their personal experiences of being home visited, home visiting others and the lessons they’ve learned.

by Lee Malone
SGI-USA Vice General Director

I learned the spirit to treasure the person in front of me from my SGI leaders early in my practice. They saved my life by introducing me to SGI President Ikeda’s guidance and through teaching me how to use faith to win in life. As a new member, I was struggling to support one of my employees. I was unsure what to do as a young supervisor but was so fortunate that my SGI leaders came to my home almost every day to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo with me and help me learn gongyo. In this process, I deepened my faith and became more confident.

Because of their care, I not only overcame my difficulty and became a capable supervisor, I also built a foundation so solid that I feel nothing will sway me. I’ve never forgotten how I was treated and how they warmly encouraged me. To this day, I am doing my best to carry out the spirit of care that I’ve learned in the SGI.

Q: What are three things you keep in mind as you prepare for home visits?

  1. I’m not there out of obligation but out of my sincere desire to support the member in any way I can. This means I strive to truly listen to what they have to say, rather than just talking at them.
  2. If they share a problem during the visit, my role is not to fix it; it’s to give them hope that through their Buddhist practice and a never-give-up spirit, they can definitely win.
  3. The visit isn’t just about Buddhism but also about their life, job and family. Through the visit, I hope to get to know them better.

Q: What is most important in doing home visits?

I do my best to chant before I go and, out of respect for the member, I show up on time. I try to bring an offering for their altar, such as fruit for example. While there, I like to chant and do gongyo together with the member.

Q: How do you encourage a member who’s really struggling?

I share my struggles and, most importantly, guidance from President Ikeda. I never go on a visit without his encouragement. I bring the World Tribune with me, and if the member doesn’t have their own, I encourage them to subscribe to the SGI-USA publications.

These words from Sensei have become my lifeline: “The courage not to bow to pressure, the courage to stand alone, the courage to maintain one’s determination, the courage to look deep into one’s heart and confront one’s own cowardice and arrogance, the courage to challenge difficulties—those who possess this kind of courage are true victors” (Feb. 11, 2011, World Tribune, p. 5).

I’ve learned from President Ikeda that it takes courage to be happy. In the three founding Soka Gakkai presidents, we have the greatest examples of people who won over their difficulties. I try to impart to members who are struggling that Sensei’s guidance is the blueprint for us to overcome our problems and become happy, too.

Q: Is there anything you do after the visit?

I chant about it and make sure to follow up. Ideally, it’s not a one-time visit, but since I can’t always go back physically, I at least call them to see how they’re doing since we met. Sometimes they’re surprised to hear from me! When I call them, I let them know how much I appreciated visiting them, and that I’m chanting about their situation.

Q: What makes a home visit victorious?

One time, I went to see a men’s division member who was terminally ill. When we finished, he looked at me and said, very seriously, “You don’t know how much I appreciate you coming to see me.” I’m not sure what specifically impacted him; I just did my best to encourage him to fight. Our time together impacted my life, too. It made me realize that home visits are not an obligation, and I should never take them for granted. I think people appreciate being encouraged to deepen their faith. This visit touched my heart—it was victorious for him and victorious for me.

As we approach next year’s effort to introduce 6,000 new youth to the SGI-USA, I’m asking myself, How can we do member care? Home visits are so important. Teaching members how to do gongyo and how to practice correctly. It’s not about numbers; it’s about encouragement. It’s about giving them courage so they realize that they can become happy together with their mentor.

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