Ever since I was little, I felt strongly about not being wasteful and was always thrifty. On the contrary, my father and sister are very careless, such as letting the
water run while brushing their teeth, leaving the lights on when not in use, and leaving half-eaten food on the plate. I guess it’s hard to change old habits because no
matter how often I tell them, they do not change. When they learn that it would be cheaper to replace a broken appliance, they immediately buy a new one, totally
lacking the spirit of taking better care of things. No matter how much I try to be thrifty, my family is wasteful so all my efforts are in vain. Do you think I can change
my family’s attitude?
(A.E., 19 years old, female)
Response given by Reverend Maki Watanabe, Seicho-No-Ie Assistant Ordained Minister
I was deeply moved to learn from your letter that from the time you were little, you took great care of things, not wanting to be wasteful. I understand your frustration seeing the wasteful spending of your family. Now, your question is, “Can I change my family’s attitude and change their wasteful spending?” Isn’t that right? Yes, it can be done. So what can you do? First of all, stop thinking of “changing your family.” Instead, you have to change yourself.
After all, you’re doing good deeds but you are also filling your mind with complaints and dissatisfaction and criticism towards your family. If that is the case, all your good intentions will end as a minus in your life. No matter how the people around you behave, it is important that you do good deeds with a joyful mind. First, practice things that are good for your family and the Earth. As you express gratitude to your family and look for their good points, I am sure things will begin to change.
Do you know Koji Arakawa, a university student who is picking up trash at the east entrance of Shinjuku Station from 6 a.m.? Mr. Arakawa once watched a movie and wondered if he could do something that would be helpful to others and started the cleanup at Shinjuku Station by himself. When he first started, those passing by would kick and throw the trash he was trying to pick up, and some even spat in his face. Instead of being praised for doing something good, the people were making a fool out of him. He was so discouraged by their reaction that he felt like quitting many times. However, he did not give up and continued. Moved by his perseverance, there are now four or five young men picking up trash with him. This wonderful circle is spreading throughout the country.
Reverend Masanobu Taniguchi teaches us the following in his book, Ashimoto kara Heiwa o: “Good karma can be accumulated by repeatedly doing good deeds. (partial omission) They can be small deeds but when repeated over and over, they will have a great impact. In the beginning you may feel embarrassed doing good deeds in the presence of others, but if you keep on doing it, your resistance will subside and you will be able to do it more naturally with a feeling of joy. When someone is doing good deeds, others will also wish to join and there will be more people spreading the circle of good deeds.” (p. 177)
Reverend Seicho Taniguchi, President of Seicho-No-Ie, used to pick up trash and empty cans on the street on his way to and from the Seicho-No-Ie Headquarters. He taught us the importance of our daily good deeds in dealing with environmental problems. When a person changes, the world will change with him. Let us practice good deeds as much as we can. It will change our direction to a good direction.
From Riso Sekai (Ideal World), September 2007, pp. 12-13
©Reverend Maki Watanabe