Published July 6, 2006
There is a road that winds behind the main building of the monastery. Some years back someone planted a few bamboo shoots. Now there is a bamboo forest. The bamboo thrives here. Looking at them as I walk the road, I think of how such abundance arrives without the aid of formal prayer. Was anyone praying for a harvest of bamboo? I think not. But it happens all the time: good gifts, in abundance, close by.
I was walking on the road a few days ago, thinking about bamboo abundance.
I heard laughter—loud, happy laughter. It was Peewee. I would recognize his laugh anywhere. I paused and listened, hoping he would laugh again. He did, even louder than before, and I smiled to myself.
I was glad that he was happy, that he was laughing. The laughter was coming from the direction of the heavy equipment garage where Peewee often goes at the end of the day.
I thought back on another day, when I had to leave here. Due to circumstances that were very stressful and beyond my control, I felt it best that I leave. It took several days to gather my things, arrange getting a car, etc. Peewee helped me with all of it. I was by the dumpster behind the retreat house, throwing away some things, and I heard a vehicle approaching. I turned and saw that it was Peewee, driving one of the monastery work carts. He pulled up and asked if he could help me, and I thanked him and told him no, that I was all set and ready to leave.
“Father James,” he said. “I won some money, a couple of hundred dollars.” He took the money out of his pocket. “You take it. You may need it.”
I felt tears coming. I did not want to cry in front of him. I swallowed deep and looked at him. “Peewee, I can never thank you enough for all you have been and are. I have money, I really do, and if I need some I will come back. But for now I am okay.” I did not know what else to say. I hugged him and told him I would so miss him, and that I loved him.
“I love you too, Father James. I am real sorry to see you go. Maybe you’ll be back some day.”
We parted ways then. I cried later, as I drove away. I cried a long time.
I once asked Peewee the first thing that came to his mind when he thought of God. He thought for a moment, looked above, as if making sure that the God above matched his idea of the God in his heart, and then he looked at me and said, “Joy. Joy, Father James. God is joy.”
That was almost four years ago. I left here and then returned. More bamboo has grown. Peewee is still here. Things worked out very well, things that enabled me to forget the past and come home again. It is good to be back.
I often see Peewee driving a small blue truck on the road lined with the bamboo. He always waves and smiles.
Joy is a gift of the Spirit. God shows himself through sharing his joy with us. Who or what is God? God knows Peewee and loves him. Peewee knows God—the God who laughs through him, the God in whose joy Peewee delights. The God who taught Peewee to give away even the little he possesses. God has made Peewee rich.
God is many things to many people. There are structures that defy any commonality in terms of “fixing” a definite nature of the Divine in our midst. We erect temples and shrines, cathedrals—each different, symbols of God in our midst.
But it seems that God prefers something closer to the ground, more mobile, less imposing—a small blue truck, passing through the shade of a thousand bamboos.
Wondrous things in life arrive without our asking for them.
An abundance of bamboo.
The joy that is God, riding in blue.
Father James Stephen Behrens, OCSO, is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. He is the author of “Memories of Grace: Portraits from the Monastery,” which is available at the monastery Web store at www.trappist.net.