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Expressions of Appreciation

Why youth are engaging in the May Commemorative Contribution activity.

Chicago. Photo by Susan Forner.

It’s one thing to feel appreciative during good times, but feeling grateful when circumstances aren’t so favorable—that takes a bit more courage. And it’s surely not something we can muster just because someone tells us to.

Ikeda Sensei once wrote, “A sincere smile is a kind of ‘switch’ that puts you, your family and your community on the track to developing a higher state of life.”[1] Similarly, expressing gratitude is a cause that directly uplifts our lives and fosters fulfillment.

The World Tribune spoke with several youth to understand why they have chosen to participate in the May Commemorative Contribution activity and how it’s changed their lives.

by Jonathan Cheng
New York

In 2020, my father became ill and, a few weeks later, passed away unexpectedly. He had been the primary caregiver for my mother, who has Alzheimer’s disease.

In a short span, I became the family breadwinner and caretaker for not only my mother but also my brother, who was struggling with his mental health.

My young men’s division activities, including meeting with other young men and supporting behind the scenes as a Soka Group member, gave me the courage to move forward. I also saw that these efforts protected me at a crucial moment.

I had watched my mother participate in the May Commemorative Contribution activity over the years, regardless of any financial difficulties, so I have always done the same.

Months into the pandemic, I was asked to join a film project that had previously shut down. I was hired as an apprentice editor, a dream job that I thought would take many more years to achieve. It was remote work, which gave me the flexibility to care for my mother.

This year, May Contribution is different. I have such deep gratitude for my mom—for giving me life and bringing Nam-myoho-renge-kyo and Ikeda Sensei into our family. This year’s contribution is all about deepening my appreciation for her and my brother, too. I often think, If mom were still fully lucid, how would she see me? By being the best son and brother that I can be, and by winning in my life, I want to prove the greatness of their missions, too.

by Yurie Ishigaki
San Jose, Calif.

I was pregnant with our daughter in 2021 when my husband, Joe, and I moved from Texas to San Jose for his job as an assistant professor. The next year, our wonderful daughter was born.

But considering our circumstances then—the cost of childcare in San Jose and being unable to work due to my visa status—I decided to focus on being a full-time mother.

My husband and I were supportive of each other’s decisions. But, somehow, this May Commemorative Contribution activity brought out my insecurities.

Before coming to the U.S. from Japan, I had participated in the contribution activity independently, with my own earnings. I felt discouraged that, with my current situation, I couldn’t do so on my own.

Chanting about this to the Gohonzon, I realized that my husband and I were now contributing together as a family. To me, it was a breakthrough to embrace this new stage with appreciation for my husband, for the ability to stay at home with my daughter, and to live in this beautiful city.

In addition, because of my flexible schedule, I can visit many members together with my daughter. I see my current circumstances as a time to inspire the young women in my community and show others how parents can also contribute to kosen-rufu.

This month, I am starting cosmetology school. Toward next year’s May Contribution activity, I’m determined to find a great job and continue building a foundation of fortune for my family and our SGI movement.

Ikeda Sensei always encourages mothers to be the sun of the family. I want to be the kind of person who can be a good example for my daughter—not just through my words, but through the way that I choose to live my life for kosen-rufu.

by Nik Linde

I always admired how my dad maintained close friendships throughout his life. I think it’s what influenced me to seek out and treasure community and connection.

Since I joined the SGI in 2020, I’ve come to see what’s distinct about our community—it’s the overwhelming support.

The confidence and compassion of everyone in the SGI are contagious. There’s this optimism that members have while facing obstacles. That kind of attitude hasn’t always come naturally to me, but I’ve come to embrace that same spirit by being around it.

That’s why the idea of participating in the May Contribution activity made sense to me—to give back to this great community. I see it as a practice of choosing to have a life state of gratitude and optimism regardless of the highs and lows of life.

That’s why, even when I needed to deliver food until 3 a.m. on top of my regular job to make ends meet, I still challenged myself to contribute. Being broke doesn’t mean I have to be unhappy, too. I can choose to have courage and gratitude even when things seem uncertain. And I know it’s not empty optimism, because my career as a photographer has blossomed since.

To me, contribution is a direct way to transform my life state. It’s like the oxygen that I need to sustain a healthy life. So I’m proactively making appreciation a practice in itself. Since the Gohonzon is a mirror that reflects our life, I want to make sure I appreciate the mirror and everything reflected in it.

All Illustrations by NGEDIT_VECTOR / FIVERR.

by Lauren Joe
Los Angeles

Recently, I left my job. It took a lot of daimoku and courage for me to pursue a new path. But since I’m still establishing  a new career, I entered this year’s May Contribution activity unemployed.

I’ve always been familiar with the spirit behind contributions through my parents, and I’ve always made the cause to participate. But this time, my desire to save my money was pretty strong, which pushed me to think deeper about what contribution meant.

While I was hesitant to participate at first, I was struck by these words from Ikeda Sensei in the April 2024 Living Buddhism: “To make offerings to the Lotus Sutra is to make offerings to all Buddhas and bodhisattvas of the ten directions. Therefore, they are all sure to protect you. You will absolutely never be deadlocked” (p. 42).

This changed my perspective—my contribution was for both me and kosen-rufu. It became clear that there was a connection between having the conviction to make a cause and having the conviction that I will break through. So even though I’m still unemployed, I realized that contributing was what would move my life forward.

I feel it’s no coincidence that I’m facing this situation. It’s almost as if the signs are telling me to challenge myself, to “take the wheel.” I can’t be a passenger in my life anymore.

After contributing, I thought I was going to regret it, but, actually, it felt good to do it. I think it’s this change in perspective, the support of those around me and hearing others’ experiences with contribution that have given me this new sense of confidence. Contribution is no longer transactional—there’s a bigger picture when it comes to making offerings: It’s about having conviction in my life and contributing to the happiness of all people.

May 17, 2024, World Tribune, pp. 6–7


  1. The Teachings for Victory, vol. 4, p. 24. ↩︎

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