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A Force More Powerful

Facing fears of fatherhood, I see my life anew.

Pillar—Luis Malespin with his family; wife, Jenice, and children, (l-r) Nia and Ares, in Miami, February 2024. Photo by Roxy Azuaje.

by Luis Malespin

At three months, the heartbeat of an unborn baby is not like yours or mine—not ba-bum, ba-bum, ba-bum, but dadadum-dadadum-dadadum—fast, like this. Listening to my daughter’s on the ultrasound, I felt my own quickening, telling me: Luis, you’re not ready. You’re going to fail. Your best won’t be enough. 

I was born in Nicaragua, to a family of folk dancers. Sunday mornings, my mother gelled our heads and dressed us up, my brother and me, in linen shirts and straw hats, and set out in a bright flowing skirt for the bus stop bound for the home that hosted our district meetings. Aboard, we played games she’d made up—a version of I Spy, for instance—where she’d spell the name of something passing in the window and we’d rush to name it.



Bumping along at my mother’s side, on our way to chant, talk and dance with our SGI family, I hardly remembered that we were poor, or what my mother had been through only the night before.

My father was tolerable until Friday, when he got paid and vanished. We could expect him to show up Saturday, drunk in the middle of the night, and could expect what mood he’d be in.

If I believed at a young age and with all my heart in the power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, it was because I had my mother as evidence. She put Ikeda Sensei’s guidance into action and transformed our family. When my father fell, cracked his head and was hospitalized in 2002, my mother bravely took action to see him admitted into a rehab center, where he stuck out the treatment and emerged a committedly sober man. After, he took faith and transformed dramatically. The father who immigrated to the U.S. with us in 2003 was completely changed from the one I’d known most of my life. Even so, the memory of his former self haunted me. From a young age, I feared the prospect of fatherhood, feared that I might fail in the ways he had once. 

Coming of age in the states, I was constantly reminded of the possibility—the likelihood—of failure. I was reminded by bullies, teachers, the dreams of my friends and the sound of my own belabored English that I was not like other children; I was a noncitizen waging an uphill battle for my rights.

As they’d been for my mother in Nicaragua, SGI activities became a source of endless strength for me here. In particular, Gajokai and Soka Group, the young men’s training groups, were where I waged my fiercest battles with myself. Graduating high school without any prospect of attending college, I started working immediately. I gave my all, putting in double, even triple the effort of those around me, but often out of fear that my best was not enough. Supporting SGI activities behind the scenes, however, I learned what it was to give my unconditional 100%, not because anything less spelled failure but because giving my all would enable all our lives to shine. Giving my all from this standpoint, as opposed to the standpoint of fear, led to multiple awards and promotions at work, giving me the confidence to set my sights on a dream of managing a large hotel. 

The news of my wife’s pregnancy, however, stirred my deepest fears.

By that time I had taken on leadership as the young men’s leader of Miami Region. Visiting one young man after another, sharing in their dreams and struggles as though they were my own, I began to perceive something that would have otherwise been too painful to grasp, which was that neither my wife nor I was fulfilled in our marriage. It took immense courage, but we decided to separate in 2019. I was 27. Our daughter was 1.

In the car, en route to encourage the young men of Miami Region, was where I received the most memorable encouragement from this time.

“You know, Luis,” a senior in faith told me, “you’re young, but your problems are those of someone middleaged. Your practice has to mature to keep pace with your life. As a single father, a region leader and the assistant manager of a hotel, you likely feel that the weight of this is more than you can bear, and you might think that thinking this way is humble. Actually, though, it’s self-centered. It prevents you from thinking of what you can do to support others.”

I knew that practicing the “strategy of Luis” would get me nowhere. I had to use the strategy of the Lotus Sutra, making causes for kosen-rufu to advance my life, to inspire the young men to do the same. 

These causes put my life into overdrive. I got a new job as the assistant manager of a large hotel; I was given the opportunity to present on Sensei’s 2019 peace proposal to 200 Ph.D. students, an experience that reignited my dream to pursue a college degree; I received my citizenship and promptly enrolled in college; and I began dating Jenice, whom I’ve since married. 

Just when I felt myself at my limit, life became even more intense when the pandemic forced the world to shelter in place in March of 2020. For us staff at the hotel, it was a truly difficult experience. My faith was my anchor in the storm. No matter how stressful things became, I never lost sight of the humanity of those around me. Everyone noticed, including my boss.

“Luis,” she told me one day at the end of 2020, “you’d be a fantastic general manager. When this is over, I’m leaving and I want you to have my job.” At the end of the year, she did just that, recommending me on her way out. 

Today, I’m a father of not one but two beautiful children (Nia and Ares). Truly, I’m not afraid of anything; whatever lies ahead, there is nothing that I cannot overcome, because my life, all life, is Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, a force more powerful than any fear.

March 15, 2024, World Tribune, p. 5

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