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Big Ocean Women are women of faith.  This foundational identity not only unites us with other people of faith, but it connects us to a higher power.  This connection gives us access to strength beyond our own.  For most, our faith gives us more than standards and direction, but also an ideal which we strive to achieve.  This ideal is something we potentially can achieve.

How did I become a woman of faith?  I come from a deeply religious family, one which demonstrates faith through action.  Our Buddhist roots taught us to do good works, and that doing good works would someday be rewarded.  This faith taught us to appreciate the sacrifices and good works of those who have gone before us and to continue to do the same for those who are yet to come.  Our family believes in the godly potential of man.

I grew up seeing acts of faith.  I watched my grandmother place a freshly baked cookie or a small scoop of hot rice in front of the butsudan or altar in our home because she had faith in life after death and faith that our ancestors were in the next world watching over her.  My father would explain to me that putting seeds in hundreds of acres of prepared ground was an act of faith.  He gave “credit where credit was due” when he was prompted to start the harvest a few days early thus avoiding the disaster of a major freeze.

Having faith and practicing faith was important to my father, and he wanted his children to have a religion. At the end of World War II, he and his family were displaced and found themselves living in southern Utah among Christians who were nicknamed Mormons. Because it was the only church in the area, he generously allowed me and my siblings to attend this church.  He expected us to actively show our faith.  One Sunday morning I wandered over to the hot beds where the cabbage seedlings were growing in the sandy soil.  “What are you doing here?” he asked.  “Why aren’t you at church?” I answered that I stayed home.  “You’re a member of the church, aren’t you?  Then go to church.”  I never skipped church after that.

My faith helps me see every man and woman on the earth as my brother or sister, all of us being created and loved by a common Creator. I see innate and inherent worth in myself and in every person, even divine potential.  I believe this divine potential is the ideal that each of us can eventually achieve.

With faith I look forward to someday achieving the ideal that is in store for me.  I know, however, that my life is far less than the ideal.  For one thing, I am barren.  I have never been able to bear children and will not achieve that one ideal in my lifetime.  I have a good friend whose two children were never able to speak and whose bodies lacked normal muscle tone.  They passed away in their youth.  With faith she looks forward to seeing these two children again, and she has faith that they will one day achieve the ideal.

It takes a lot of faith to face trial after trial, disappointment after disappointment, to see injustice and suffering throughout the world and still have hope in the ideal.  But when we act with faith and strive to overcome these trials, we tap into godly power and strength and become a changed and better person.

Our connection to God or a higher power not only teaches us what is right and what is wrong, but it also teaches us to be other-centered.  We study historical records of whole nations that flourished when their people were filled with faith and sought to make life better for everyone.  By the same token, these historical records show how a faithless people become base and hedonistic, selfish and self-destructive.  Religion encourages us to live in such a way that we bless and lift others.

In this way, the freedom to act in faith is a benefit to society.  When individuals seek to be more than just fair and lawful, but to be compassionate and forgiving and generous and altruistic, the quality of life of their entire community is elevated.  These faith-filled communities can make strong, productive countries.

Some see a conflict between human rights and religious rights, blaming religion for being cruel and offensive.  Religious freedom is under attack.  Surely religious freedom is not license to be cruel or even judgmental.  It does, however, give us the right to strive for the ideal and promote the ideal.  As we show faith in the potential of all humans and treat everyone with dignity and respect, we demonstrate that there is great value in religion and that religious freedom is worth preserving.  As we show our faith in happy and productive ways, we promote religious freedom.

Thank you for being women of faith and for teaching your children to act with faith.  Thank you for being generous, loving, compassionate, strong, powerful, and devoted to helping each other reach our full potential.

~Ann Takasaki