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Persevering Together

Community—Will Kelly at a discussion meeting in Denver, December 2023.

This year, SGI-USA youth will hold chapter-level March Youth Peace Festivals with the determination to create peace in their local communities. The World Tribune is featuring chapter youth leaders and how they are applying Ikeda Sensei’s guidance to win where they are.

Prayer is the courage to persevere. It is the struggle to overcome our own weakness and lack of confidence in ourselves. It is the act of impressing in the very depths of our being the conviction that we can change the situation without fail. Prayer is the way to destroy all fear. It is the way to banish sorrow, the way to light a torch of hope. It is the revolution that rewrites the scenario of our destiny. Believe in yourself! Don’t sell yourself short! Devaluing yourself is contrary to Buddhism, because it denigrates the Buddha state of being within you. (Dec. 3, 2004, World Tribune, p. 8)

by Will Kelly
Red Rocks Chapter Young Men’s Leader, Denver

Failing forward—this was a lesson that was instilled in me through years of playing in team sports. If we lost, we got back up, learned from the mistakes and found the path forward—and we did this together as a team.

I lived by this optimism, and I worked hard, but when it came to advancing my career, it was a different case. Although I completed my bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering, I just wasn’t sure if I could find a job, and looking beyond my comfort zone only magnified my lack of direction. But life moves on regardless, and after six months, I landed my first job in the aerospace industry in Illinois.

Around this time, I had surgery to deal with multiple sinus infections I was getting each year. But the surgery resulted in nerve pain through one side of my face, neck and back. The pain was so bad that I began searching for something—anything—that could help relieve it.

One day I met a young man, an SGI member. His sincerity, and more so, the genuine friendship we formed, led me to Buddhism.

When I first chanted Nam-myoho-renge-kyo together with my district members and saw the genuine compassion of each person and heard their stories, I was convinced that this Buddhist practice and community were what could help me win over my obstacles.

The men’s and women’s members were patient—taking their time to explain the core principles of Buddhism to me, including the mentor-and-disciple relationship, and how to care for others. My seniors in faith often took me to visit other young men and showed me how to consistently care for others and bring people together. And when I was struggling to move forward, they guided me back to daimoku.

Before long, I took on leadership responsibilities. My impatience with others and identity as an introvert gave way to empathy and confidence. To know that others were struggling, just as I was struggling, gave me a sense of where I was. And these relationships, fused with chanting Nam-myoho-renge-kyo, became my fuel to persevere—to keep failing forward beyond my comfort zone.

Will with young men’s division members, Denver, January 2024.

That’s why our March Youth Peace Festival, to me, means building more relationships and discovering one more young man who we can visit. It’s so important for everyone. And this effort goes beyond March—I’m looking toward 200 meaningful visits this year.

My life with Buddhism has led me from Chicago to San Diego and, now, to Denver. My health has improved considerably. I’m now working as a software engineer for a space program, testing the launching of rockets, satellites and various space technology. I’m living a life that I originally couldn’t see through my doubts. My dream is to help humans get into space, while ensuring that the technology is rooted in humanism.

Neither dwelling on my mistakes nor staying in my comfort zone, I’m chanting daimoku and, together with friends in the SGI, expanding my horizon—and I’m never giving up.

February 16, 2024, World Tribune, p. 11

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