My pilot eased back on the throttle, allowing our floatplane to start its decent toward the Wouri River. The massive river in Cameroon had flooded its banks because of the monsoons.
Low clouds and spotty fog hid much of the river as we scanned for a clearing in the grey muck. As we skimmed just above the rain forest canopy an opening emerged and we drove down, pulling up just before the water.
The pilot gently touched the floats into the chocolate smooth flowing water. A few minutes later we slid onto the sandy bank next to a village that would be my home for three days.
The mud, thatch and tin village brought certain expectations to mind. Those notions were quickly dispatched as I found the people and the welcome far friendlier than I had dreamed.
It became apparent over the next few days that the village people were far from primitive. They, in fact, supported each other and lived amongst each other in a way that I found more refreshing than much of what I experienced back home.
Infants and toddlers were adored there. Not just by immediate family, but by the entire village. When a mother needed assistance many stepped forward to gladly help.
Young students attended a single room school where the city educated teacher was supported by many in the community. They helped with tutoring, lessons, activities and stories.
Teenagers with adolescent teen attitudes were guided by many elders toward a more productive use of their energies. This was considered not just the work of the parents, but of everyone in the village.
Seniors were of course revered and honored.
When an old woman fell on some rocks by the river bank all within sight rushed to help her. It was not just the duty of a paramedic or her family. It was obviously the role of the community to help.
As the floatplane's prop dug deep into the humid air three days later lifting us off the river, I looked back at the village and realized it was a far more peaceful place and more of a community than I had ever imagined. Returning to my home further highlighted the villager's instinctive sense of community.
We have this notion of 8-80; helping our community from ages 8 to age 80. Yet it is so fragmented and has such a clinical approach it results in many falling through the cracks in the web of our society.
Helping teachers is not our job.
Guiding our youth is the role of nonprofit enterprises.
The seniors are expected to go to the senior center.
If someone in need is not from our church then we do not care.
Government does not see a role in developing lasting positive social structures and most private citizens are too aloof to be bothered with those in need.
The result, even though we profess to be a nation that honors and supports family, is high dropout rates, high crime rates, broken families, child hunger, abuse and lost souls.
Not here you say.
There are homeless people living in cars just around the corner. The food banks are stressed and the nonprofits exhaust funds each winter.
It very much is here and if you cannot see this it is because you do not want to see it.
That village on the banks of the Wouri is a family and a real community.
We are seldom more than the sum of our excuses. 8-80; infant to elder, single soul to a community; it is more than just a concept. It is more than just someone else's job. It should be our innate obligation to this community of humans.
Charlie Auvermann is a longtime Dawson County resident and former editor of the Dawson Community News. He is also the executive director of the local development authority.