October 24 the 75th Anniversary of the United Nations — Let’s Celebrate

I just wrote something on elections, then was reminded that it is, despite the pandemic, a time to celebrate, not the biggies of the United Nations, but the worker bees and the people they try to help, the people who make them human, so that all of us can, as written in the Preamble to the UN Charter, reaffirm our faith “in the dignity of the human person”. So, let me read from CHOICES, as Cleo, that worker bee from Great Neck, New York, celebrates with village women in Cameroon….

That evening, as Cleo was sitting outside having dinner with the women and watching a few of the younger ones starting to dance, she felt a tug at her sleeve, then a warm hand on her arm. The bold older woman blinked her eyes and turned them to the dancers. It took Cleo a few seconds to catch on.

She was asking Cleo to come dance! Cleo smiled, looked down and declined. The older woman said something which Cleo did not understand and pulled at her sleeve. The bony woman beside her joined. Reluctantly, Cleo got up and let them bring her closer to the other moving bodies.

How could she wiggle her behind the way they did, sashay in such a way? The older woman started. Her generous buttocks seemed to glide. She made an open-handed gesture to Cleo, who tried to imitate but knew she had not quite succeeded when there were a few suppressed giggles. The older woman barked something loud enough for it to be heard above the din of the boom box and moved some more, her dark face lit in a motherly smile. Cleo tried some more and heard one, two, little yells of encouragement. She was doing better. A young girl winked at her from her left. Cleo laughed and tried to coordinate her shoulders.

She was now becoming bolder, listening to the beat coming from the boom box. How incongruous it was, music from a band that was doing quite well in Paris being played here in the village with the dirt, music coming back to its origins via modern tape in a place without running water, without sewage. But it didn’t matter now. Cleo smiled to the bony woman moving in double rhythm. Incredible, she still had the force after more than ten children, she was still not beaten by life!

Cleo felt ashamed of how upset she had become in the office over the continued grumbling over salaries. She had taken it too personally.

The young girl who had winked at her came to the middle of the group and danced for the others. How good it was, thought Cleo, that she left the office and come to see these women, bathed in their lives. By chance, she spotted the volunteer’s wife, far off, probably feeling beaten and disgruntled. Cleo’s anger against her slowly melted with every move of her bare feet against the village soil. Wouldn’t she in that woman’s place also try to improve her life? Wouldn’t she, too, try somehow to have a house with some kind of floor? Wouldn’t she want some type of shower arrangement? Wouldn’t she want to do everything not to have to go through nine months of pregnancy only to lose what she had carried for so long in a few months or a few years?

This project was not so much for the women, she realized, as it was a project for her, for her to share in their reality.

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A novelist on the sea of life coming, cresting and breaking having traveled near & far from a post WWII immigrant childhood to a UN world of poverty and riches.

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