Experience

Learning That I Have Unlimited Potential

Buddhism has taught me that nothing can hold me back.

Kimmy Dickson celebrates her eighth-grade graduation, May 2021. Photo by Nozomi Dickson.


by Kimmy Dickson
Phoenix

[Nichiren] Daishonin assures us, ‘Those who believe in the Lotus Sutra are as if in winter, but winter always turns to spring’ (“Winter Always Turns to Spring,” The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin, vol. 1, p. 536). Don’t worry. The Gohonzon knows everything. You are now in winter. To you it may seem to last forever, but no winter ever fails to turn into spring. (Ikeda Sensei, The Human Revolution, p. 1418)

I was born with brittle bone disease, or osteogenesis imperfecta. My bones are super fragile and can break with just a sneeze. I’ve lost count of how many bones I have broken, but I estimate over 200.

I had my first experience in faith when I was 8 years old. I’ve had to have seven surgeries to fix my spine, legs and arms, but this was my most intense one. My spine was curved like an “S” so they had to use a metal rod to straighten it. This surgery was supposed to take more than five hours and had many risks. For one, they were trying to straighten out my body without breaking too many bones in the process, which could worsen my condition.

I chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo that the surgery would be successful and finish in three hours. Chanting took my stress and fear away. I received messages from people all over the world who were chanting for me. This encouraged me so much, because I felt like I wasn’t alone. The nurses wheeled me out to my parents exactly three hours after surgery started, and I suffered zero complications! This gave me confidence in the power of chanting.

Making friends has always been a challenge because kids tend to judge me for being in a wheelchair. I was often not invited to certain places or included in some activities, and people talked differently to me. Some people would even ask my friends, “Why are you friends with a disabled person?” or call me ugly. These moments really hurt.

But a few years ago, I determined to be more social, and I joined the cheerleading club. Of course, I couldn’t do all the moves, but I did my best.

Kimmy with her family (l-r), father, Bryan; mom, Nozomi; brother, Ren; and dog, Maui.
Kimmy with her family (l-r), father, Bryan; mom, Nozomi; brother, Ren; and dog, Maui.

I’m forced to miss many days of school because of doctors’ appointments, which makes it easy to fall behind. But I do my best to make extra effort. For example, this past year in eighth grade, I took a high school algebra course for extra credit. Knowing how difficult it is for me to get my normal homework done, my teacher discouraged me from taking it. But my parents told me that if I wanted to do it, I should go for it and not let anything hold me back. To my teacher’s shock, I was the first student to complete all the course work. I studied every chance I had, including at doctors’ appointments. At one point, I had an arm fracture but continued doing my assignments with one hand.

While I still have many challenges, I’m in almost no pain. Usually, people in my condition have to take a lot of pain medication just to make it through the day, but I take it only rarely.

This condition has made me strong. Tough times in my life have made me go back to the Gohonzon and Ikeda Sensei’s guidance, which reminds me that I have unlimited potential.

I’m going to high school in the fall. I know it will be a challenge, and I’m scared, but I have high hopes. Some of my goals are to enjoy school, get good grades and make great friends. I also want to be more outgoing. I don’t know what kind of job I want to do yet in the future, but I know I want to help people. I’m thinking of something in the medical field since I can understand people because of what I’ve been through. My condition has also inspired my brother to want to become a doctor!

Sometimes I would think that my condition was just all pain, but I’m starting to look at the benefits. I’ve realized that just because I’m in a wheelchair doesn’t mean I can’t do what I want to do and have a great life.