A Western Buddhist's Travels

Sightseeing & detours on the path of enlightenment

Being happy by making others happier

Over the last few weeks I have brought up making changes in our lives, being a better person and putting the happiness of others before our own. Today I will mention two individuals, neither of them perfect, but both started out life just like the rest of us. Both had a crisis, that caused them to think about others, had an idea and worked at making that idea, a reality.

photo credit. www.habitat.org

Millard Fuller

Was born in Alabama U.S.A., attended Auburn University. He was a successful business owner and millionaire by the age of 29. However his health, integrity and marriage were all failing, as his business prospered. He re-evaluated his values according to the teachings of Christ, and reconciled with his wife. They sold everything, giving the money to the poor. They set out to find what a Buddhist would call right occupation. They came upon a Christian community near Americus Georgia. It was at Koinonia Farm along with several others they started several partnership initiatives, including a low cost housing ministry. They came up with the idea of building modest homes on a no profit, no interest model. The cost was also kept down by requiring the family to put in sweat equity. It worked, and in 1973 the Fuller’s moved to Zaire, now known as The Republic of the Congo. The project to build homes was a huge success. In 1976 after returning to the U.S.A., it was decided to start a standalone organization. Thus Habitat for humanity was born, and has built nearly 2 million homes for families around the world.

English: Photo of Terry Fox, Canadian cancer f...

English: Photo of Terry Fox, Canadian cancer fund-raiser, during his 1980 “Marathon of Hope” fund-raising run across Canada. Photo taken July 12, 1980 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada by Jeremy Gilbert with his Praktika SLR 35 mm camera on Bloor Street East, near entrance to Castle Frank subway station, looking south-east towards Castle Frank Road as Fox heads west along Bloor Street. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Terry Fox

Terry was born In Port Coquitlam, B.C. Canada and until he was 18, was the typical Canadian teenager. He was diagnosed with osteosarcoma in his right knee. A week later his leg was amputated 15 cm above the knee. While in hospital and later undergoing chemotherapy, he saw the terrible strain the younger children with cancer suffered with. In 1979 Terry conceived the idea of the Marathon of Hope. He would run a marathon a day everyday till he crossed Canada, from Newfoundland back to British Columbia. His goal was to rise 24 million dollars or one dollar for every Canadian citizen at the time. This was an unheard of idea, and at that time people with disabilities or cancer, was hidden in the shadows. On April 12, 1990 in St. John’s Newfoundland, Terry started on his mission. 143 days later near Thunder Bay, Ontario, just under 2/3 of the way to his goal. He ran only 37km that day, and the next was barely able to brush away a fly. The cancer had returned and spread to his lungs. He left this life, June 28, 1981however today over 500 million dollars has been raised in over 50 countries in runs bearing his name. Thanks to his Marathon of Hope others have stepped forward as well, and a person diagnosed today has 4 times the likelihood of surviving the cancer that claimed his life.

What if, he had stayed in the shadows, not dared to dream of a better world? He probably would have married, possibly had a family. Would the cancer have remained in remission, as some think the run caused it to return? He would have had a typical Canadian life, with all likelihood. However how many other’s having had longer, happier lives as a result of his dream, and his determination in making it a reality. He didn’t succumb to the attitude; of I am but one person, not even special in any way. What difference can I make; instead he showed us one person can make a difference. That we all matter, and can all do something to reduce suffering in the world. Our lives can have a great purpose, real meaning, even if it is only to our family, our neighbours, or perhaps the world.

So what injustice, or what failing has irked you recently? Now that you have something in mind, meditate on it, and think about simple steps to make a difference. Now that you have a few simple ideas, think of something grand. Something that hasn’t been done before, and start doing it one step at a time. Your marathon doesn’t have to be 42km every day. Perhaps it’s helping to serve 42 meals at a homeless shelter. Or 42 weeks out of each year, you spend part of your day cleaning up your neighbourhood. One important lesson from both of the people I mentioned, was neither one, tried to do everything by themselves. They both got other people involved.

There are over 42 thousand ways you can make a difference, but it only takes one, what will yours be?


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