By Macalai Ramos
New York City
When I was 2 years old, my mothers, Miriam and Sandra, began to notice that something was wrong with me because I could not sit still or sleep at night. They immediately began to chant Nam-myoho-renge-kyo for many hours a day, determined to find the right doctor who could help me.
At age 4, I was diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Doctors also informed my mothers that I would never function as a “normal” kid.
When I began kindergarten, the principal told Mommy Miriam that I would never speak, read or write. My mothers, however, determined not to be defeated and to prove the great power of Nam-myoho-renge-kyo.
Every day for the next several years, Mommy Miriam would read The Writings of Nichiren Daishonin to me. She said that she felt in her heart that my life understood Nichiren’s words.
After being diagnosed with ADHD, I took many different medications for about five years.
I had negative reactions to them all and developed a loss of appetite and compulsive behaviors, such as pulling out all my eyebrow hairs.
My mothers and I continued to chant together during those years to find a doctor who could properly diagnose my condition.
Even though I couldn’t speak, I somehow learned to chant the words Nam-myoho-renge-kyo. Though it was hard work, I consistently chanted and practiced reading Nichiren’s writings together with my mothers. Through this, I eventually learned to speak, read and write. I also participated in my district meetings and Future Division activities.
Then, about six years ago, my mothers got the best medical services for me at a great hospital in New York City. After intensive testing, doctors told them that I had autism. That diagnosis described everything that was happening to me. Autism can affect people’s ability to focus and to connect with others. It can also make people jumpy.
Our prayers were definitely answered, because since that time, thanks to all the treatment that I received, I have not taken any medication for my condition. I am now able to control 90 percent of my symptoms.
Although sometimes, I do not know how to fully express myself, chanting and reading President Ikeda’s guidance every morning helps me have clearer communication, such as making eye contact with others. I know I’ve become the person I am today because of my consistent Buddhist practice.
I now attend a special needs high school, where many of my classmates deal with similar problems. I have already shared Buddhism with many of them.
A couple years ago, I made a connection with an autistic young man, Max, who lives across the street from me. I not only befriended him but also introduced him to the practice. We became best friends right away, and he has since become a great friend in faith. We chant and attend SGI-USA activities together all the time. His mother also came to a meeting once.
I have improved my condition so much that last year, I attended a precollege summer program at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York City. I got a B in a class with non-ADHD students. I have always been artistic and fascinated by patterns and designs, which led me to my love for fashion. My dream is to become a successful fashion designer who can use her skills to touch people’s hearts around the world.
Following my sophomore year of high school, I am returning to the FIT program this summer to further my fashion design studies.
My mentor in faith, President Ikeda, says: “Do something, start something. As you make consistent efforts, you will begin to see your goals come into focus. You will discover your mission—the one only you can fulfill” ( Discussions on Youth, new edition, p. 23).
Through my life experiences, I have come to realize that my mission is to help kids like myself be the best they can be. For this reason, I will do a fashion show this fall in Manhattan, N.Y., exhibiting nine of my designs, which will all be modeled by kids with autism. The net proceeds from the show will be donated to a charity to further assist children with special needs. Just as my mothers say, you must give back to society because this is how we do kosen-rufu.
I named my clothing line “Live a Little by Macalai” because I want to inspire other youth to never give up on their lives. This is what I have learned through uncovering my own unique mission, and because I have complete faith in the Gohonzon, nothing can stop me.
This experience was originally published in the July 19th 2013 World Tribune.