“Tagore was a Bengali…, a most intelligent man, but you knew that, didn’t you?”
Tagore was a Bengali, no I didn’t know that, to me he was just Tagore, the Rabindranath, a man of the pen on paper, a poet from India. Someone who adopted humanity and became one with the rest, but Maoumita insists, Tagore was a Bengali…
“Yes, yes, I know…”
Today she brought her regular outfit, the traditional saree, white cotton, the linen adorned with two red wide and thin stripes on one side and some stars scattered on the front panel of the dress. She explained to me the meaning of the design, the details of it, I know, but I must have forgotten because now all I see there is stripes and stars fixed on a sea of waving whiteness.
In December, we hosted our Winter Festival. A celebration of friendship, love, and the collaboration between us at MCC and families like Maoumita’s. MCC clients bring their children to play with each other, get acquainted with other families, and enjoy the festivities. Around the table I can see all the faces; there must be some forty families here, intertwined, smiling, and speaking in their many languages that signal the diversity of their origins. It occurred to me that the oblong shaped table could be a lake on whose shores the different groups exists. On the far end to my left, the Egyptian families, Christian Coptic, who fled religious persecution and found refuge in America; then the Algerian group, the largest one, people of the dessert, Bedouins, Berbers, but also from coastal cities along the Mediterranean Sea. Muslims who insists on not being called Arabs, proud as they are of their ethnicity; Eunjong, the woman from Korea, always positive, very charming, who is engaged in a lively conversation with Rashida from the Algerian group. To my right the Hispanics, a collection of Salvadorans, Hondurans and Guatemalans who mostly do not speak English, at least not yet. Cloistered together depending on a few, like me, to translate, to help them communicate with the rest. Finally, there is the Bengali troop, a group whose members occupy the table where the far end meets with the encampment for the Egyptians.
Magda who wants to be called Maggi, Adriane and me serve the food while April launches a discourse, she welcomes the families and thanks them for being here, a fundamental part of our program. While she talks, some children decide to release a blue balloon that ascends to the ceiling and remains there for the duration of the party. We raffled and distributed the donated packaged gifts filled with toys and clothes that we put together for every family. We worked for almost two weeks to organize this event, most of the time staying late after completing our regular schedule of home visits. We are very grateful to our sponsors and supports, especially Giant Supermarket who donated $300 to support the success of this event. It was a team effort where everyone played a part, and our reward is just there for everyone to see: happiness in the faces of the children, words of kindness, fondness, offered to us by their parents.
With the food is gone and the gifts already in the children’s corners, fun is quickly running out and a family thanks us and then sings a farewell song saying they must go. The father is going to work, as he does so at night. Embraces, kisses and best wishes and they are gone. After them the rest follow in a procession and pretty soon we are left alone, the four of us facing an empty table and the evidence of a fantastic party that we must clean before heading home to rest a little before returning to face our tasks in the morning.
On my way home I reflect on what we accomplished at the Winter Festival. The gathering of families, the collecting and packaging of all the gifts, and reaching out to our sponsors who graciously provided us with food donations. Then there was the happiness of the children. The blue balloon, the rounded wholeness of the time between the hour of vespers and the beginning of the eve. I asked myself what, if anything, what would Mr. Tagore have done differently from us tonight? If anything at all, I’m sure he would be inspired with what we all witnessed today.