Friday, June 23, 2006



The truck arrived with boxes and other shipping supplies. The driver jumped out and looked about and waved and smiled at me. I introduced myself and he smiled again and told me his name, “Louis,” but said it was not his real name. He was Vietnamese and we chatted as we unloaded the materials from the truck. He fled Saigon when the city was taken over by the North Vietnamese and settled in California. He then relocated to Atlanta a year ago. He coughed as much as he laughed and struck me as a happy man. He asked what we do for a living and I told him we are monks. He said, “Buddhist?” and I replied, “No, Roman Catholic, Trappists.” He said that there are only Buddhist monks and that he was Roman Catholic. So I gave him a picture of our community and he was delighted that there were “real” Catholic monks.

He said that he was going to Saigon in a few days, for a stay of several weeks. “Things are better there now,” he told me.

When he left, he smiled again and gave me the “V” peace sign. I took his picture and it came out well – his smile, his wish of peace.

I wish we had had more time to talk. He is surely a man who has suffered much in his life – he told me about relatives who were killed in the war, about people he loved and would never see again. He told me how hard it was coming to the United States, learning a language and a new way of life.

All about us people are leaving what was familiar and coming here, to find a new life. They are causing a lot of worries in many quarters as to their illegal status, their refusal or inability to learn English, their unfamiliarity with the American way of life.

Louis never told me his real name. I thought later that it is hard for any one of us to say who we really “are.” Our deepest selves shy away from speaking words that come from the heart – words of love or friendship, longing and desire.

Louis wished me peace and smiled and said he would come back, and bring his wife and children. I will welcome him at Eucharist and share peace. We will share what we never spoke of – but who we really were and are, beneath our names, our smiles.

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