Georgia Bulletin

The Newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Atlanta

Living So That Others Don’t Go Hungry

By FATHER JAMES S. BEHRENS, OCSO, Commentary | Published February 12, 2009

Haven and his wife, Rocky, are long-time friends of the monastery.

They grace our community almost every weekend, making the trip here from their home in Florida. They recently bought a home in Conyers and will soon be moving here, so we will be neighbors.

They recently returned from a trip to our Trappistine monastery in Nigeria. Haven took many wonderful digital photographs of the sisters and their neighbors—all Nigerians, dressed in such colorful clothing and beaming with smiles that captivated me as I looked at the pictures.

They are a happy people.

I noticed that Haven had lost some weight on the trip. He was never heavy, but the weight loss looked good on him. He is trim and very fit looking. I told him how well he looked, and he thought for a few seconds.

“Well,” he said. “I knew that if I ate less the sisters would have more.”

It took a moment for what he said to sink in. The sisters did not have an abundance of food. They shared from their want. I looked at Haven again and smiled. What he said to me was, pardon the pun, a mouthful. I was struck by the modest gesture of his taking less of a portion so that the sisters did not go hungry. He would have never told me about it. That is the way he is—he carries his wisdom silently, with a smile but shares it near and far.

What a different world we would have if we all learned to look about us and take in less so that others may have. It is as simple as that. And yet it is not often that we are in circumstances where we are able to clearly see the need for the equation and to apply it to our appetites—whether these are of food, energy, resources or any abundance that we do not need but can share.

Haven is a quiet and happy man. Rocky is more chatty and as happy. She told me how deeply moved she was by the happiness of the Nigerian people. She told me that they were so happy to give her and Rocky gifts of friendship, not the least of which were the Nigerian names bestowed on them.

We all have different names and are made conscious in life of our differences. We know the tragic history that is ours because of our inability to “see” each other in terms other than color, race, religious affiliation and other ways of defining who is human and who is not.

God asks one thing—that we treat each other as brothers and sisters.

From our failure to live that way, history is a long and tragic landscape of bloodshed and blindness. But on that landscape are also programs that have assisted the less fortunate among us. And there are as well individuals who shine and offer hints of what redemption is about, what it is doing. There are women who go hungry giving from their want and who find their joy in doing so. And there is a man who looks well, trim and happy. He took less from those who wanted to give. He even looks less because of what he gave.

Haven and Rocky are one of many on that landscape who are smiling, happy, as if fed by more than food, as if they tasted something of God, and discovered the joy in giving it away.

Trappist Father James Stephen Behrens is a monk at the Monastery of Our Lady of the Holy Spirit in Conyers. His books are available at the monastery Web store at