June 9, 2019 Sermon

We’re in graduation season, aren’t we? Graduations are pretty important. I read an interesting article where a Pasadena, Texas mother, Marcy Flores, recently ordered a cake from Walmart for their daughter’s graduation party. The problem began in the morning, when they found out that the Walmart store had not prepared their two-tier cake. Walmart apologized and offered a replacementa smaller cake for free. The family decided to take it as they had little recourse. The family chose a blue cake because it matched the high school’s colors. The Walmart employee even offered to decorate the cake with graduationthemed trinkets and a picture of the customer’s daughter, Lea Nava. Well, the family took the cake home, and when it was time to cut the cake, Marcy took a knife and tried to slice through the cake. Marcy said, “I go to cut the cake and it was not budging.” Everyone’s face changed when they realized that the inside of the cake was Styrofoam.

The moral of the story might be never to take your business to Walmart if you want anything done right. But, I refuse to fault this family who tried to do something good for their daughter. I would rather focus on what the family said in the end. This family was angry and took the cake back to Walmart, whose employees apparently gave them a gift card as an apology. But, the gesture was understandably not well received by the Flores family. Flores said, “They can’t replace the moment that we lost.”

What they said is true. Here was a family with so much expectation in making young Lea Nava’s graduation as memorable as possible. However, when there is an incident like this, a dark cloud is drawn upon what should be a happy event. However, the damage was done, and it is almost impossible to go back and correct such a catastrophe. As much as one may wish, what happened in the past cannot be retrieved. When I was asked to take wedding photos, I was careful in using at least three cameras, more if possible. This was when photos were not digital, but required a film covered with silver halide on which a negative image would be created when the shutter of a camera is released. There was no guarantee that a photo was taken well or whether there was an image at all. This was because this negative had to be developed in a darkroom. I could never breathe a sigh of relief until I had processed the negatives. Anyway, a photographer had to take great precaution in not fudging up wedding photos because you cannot recreate the various moments within a wedding. In fact, a wedding is precious for the very reason that it cannot be reenacted. This puts a lot of pressure on a photographer. That suspense is no longer there with a digital camera, however.

A four-character phrase in Japanese captures this phenomena well. The phrase is ichi go ichi e ( 一期一会) meaning, “one time, one meeting”. We all have friends and

acquaintances. And, we meet on different occasions. Whether it is for a birthday party, wedding, or graduation, or even something as mundane as attending a certain class at school, we are creating a unique experience each and every time that we meet. Even if you go to school every day, and although it may feel like drudgery, each day and each meeting

is a little different from the next. The moment that you create together with someone can never be redone.

This notion becomes very important in Buddhism. We must cherish every moment of our time with others because that moment will never return. Each moment that we live has meaning. Oftentimes we are left with misgivings, such as, “I should have been nicer, or kinder, or better.” While one is of the mind that s/he can always meet someone again, such a person wafts unaware of the weight of the significance in each exchange with a good friend of family member. When we assume that each encounter with someone will be its last, that it is ichi go ichi e, then it behooves us to be at our best to make each circumstance a memorable one. Unfortunately, we are more aware of this when we meet family and friends who live far from us; but, are apt to easily overlook those who are the closest to us.

(Eisei Ikenaga)