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The Monkey Who Went to Meeting

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Listen to the full story (approximately 6 minutes and 30 seconds long) as told by Martha Moss using the media player above! Scroll down for the full transcript (below the interview with Martha).

From the print version: The following is an excerpt from a story written and recorded in the 1980s for a cassette tape titled Animal Stories from the Cloud Forest, true stories for children of all ages.

Choco was a little, wild howler monkey. He was found all alone in the forest by some men building trails there. His little black face was crumpled up and his large black eyes looked very mournful. The little monkey appeared to be an orphan. The men took the tiny monkey to the ranger’s house.

The children in the family called him Choco because he was dark brown all over just like chocolate. Right away, Choco began to make new friends. Choco’s best friend was the ranger’s wife and the family’s mother, whose real name is Lucille, but everyone calls her Lucky. Choco went everywhere with his friend. He would get especially excited on days when there was meeting for worship.

Friends meeting for worship is a very important part of life in the mountain community. It began when the small group of Quakers, whose real name is the Society of Friends, came with their families from far away because they had heard that Costa Rica is a peaceful and friendly place to live. They bought farms at the top of the mountain near the cloud forest, and they bought dairy cows and began to make and sell very good cheese. One of the first things that they did was to build a meetinghouse where they could worship God and give thanks for their safe journey and beautiful new home.

Quaker churches are different from most others. They’re called meetinghouses and are very plain. The people, including the children and even little babies, come together quietly for an hour hoping that the spirit of God will speak to them in the stillness. It is not easy for children to be quiet for an hour and no one would believe that the monkey could do it. But Choco surprised everyone.

Read the rest of the story below and listen to the original audio recording by Martha Moss using the media player at the top of this page.

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Martha Moss and her daughter, Nan, in 1998.

Interview with Martha Moss

Gail Whiffen

How old are you? Ninety‐two, my birthday was on January 10.

How long have you been living in Monteverde? About 40 years. Do you like living there? I love it. What do you like about it? Well, have you been before? Yes. And weren’t you hooked?

Do you belong to a meeting there? Yes, Monteverde Friends Meeting. I’m not able to attend as much anymore, but I go when I can.

What do you remember about recording “Animal Stories from the Cloud Forest”? My friend Patricia made the book. She illustrated the stories and translated them into Spanish. There’s a little book that goes with the tape. That will tell you all you need to know.

Was Choco a real monkey? Yes. Is he still alive today? I doubt it. He was very mischievous and also very friendly.

Did he really go to Quaker meeting? Yeah, he really did. It’s a true story. He would sleep right through meeting!

Gail Whiffen is the associate editor of Friends Journal.

“The Monkey Who Went to Meeting” full transcript (online only)

Choco was a little, wild howler monkey. He was found all alone in the forest by some men building trails there. His little, black face was crumpled up, and his large, black eyes looked very mournful. His mother didn’t seem to be anywhere nearby. The little monkey appeared to be an orphan.

The men took the tiny monkey to the ranger’s house. But living in the ranger’s house was a very different life than hanging onto his mother as she went swinging high through the forest trees looking for tender leaves to eat while the big male monkeys made their strange howling noises that frightened anyone in the forest who didn’t know what the sound was.

But, bit by bit, he stopped being afraid and became a mischievous little fellow. The children in the family called him Choco, because he was dark brown all over just like chocolate. Right away Choco began to make new friends. One of his favorites was the little, old, almost‐blind Siamese cat who licked him and groomed him as if he were her own kitten. They liked to curl up together on the big open oven door of the big wood stove, especially when the cold winds blew down from the mountaintop. The dog of the house was pretty big and a little scary, but Choco thought it was great fun to quickly pull his tail and then jump away up onto the bookcase before the dog could catch him.

Choco’s best friend was the ranger’s wife and the family’s mother, whose real name is Lucille, but no one ever calls her that. Everyone calls her Lucky. Choco went everywhere with his friend. When he was still very small, she carried him in a cloth bag that tied with a drawstring that could be hung on a nearby hook or limb of a tree. There he would sleep or lie quietly until someone came to get him. When he got bigger, he would ride on Lucky’s back, close to her neck, and wouldn’t leave her at all. He would get especially excited on days when there was meeting for worship.

Friends meeting for worship is a very important part of life in the mountain community. It began when the small group of Quakers, whose real name is the Society of Friends, came with their families from far away because they had heard that Costa Rica is a peaceful and friendly place to live. They bought farms at the top of the mountain near the cloud forest, and they bought dairy cows and began to make and sell very good cheese. One of the first things that they did was to build a meetinghouse where they could worship God and give thanks for their safe journey and beautiful new home.

Quaker churches are different from most others. They’re called meetinghouses and are very plain. The people, including the children and even little babies, come together and sit quietly for an hour hoping that the spirit of God will speak to them in the stillness. It is not easy for children to be quiet for an hour, and no one would believe that the monkey could do it. But Choco surprised everyone.

Every Wednesday and Sunday, which were the days for worship, Choco would be there. Lucky would bring along his favorite pink blanket and his small bottle of milk. At first he would look around at all of the people. Then, he would make such funny faces that it was hard for the children not to laugh. But as everyone got quiet, he would drink his milk and crawl under the pink blanket and go sound asleep. At the end of meeting when people began to shake hands and greet each other, Choco would come out from under his blanket and shake hands too. Sometimes, he would get so excited that he would shake hands with his own long tail, but always he stayed quiet during the meeting, even when someone stood up to say some very wise words.

As Choco grew older, it wasn’t easy for him to be quiet. Sometime he would get so excited that he would bite a friendly hand a little too hard. He pulled the dog’s tail so hard that the dog ran away whenever he saw the monkey coming. He was almost too rough for his good friend the little Siamese cat. He got bigger and bigger and began to practice the loud grunts and shouts just like the big male howler monkeys. And although he wasn’t very good at it yet, he was very loud. Everyone could see that he was big enough and old enough now to go back to the forest, but they worried that he might not know how to live there because he had grown up in a house with people.

The family worried about what to do. They wrote to zoos in several places, but the people who run the zoos wrote back and said that howler monkeys always get sick when they’re captive, even in a zoo, and they were very sorry, but they couldn’t take Choco. It was quite a problem.

Then one day, while some of the family and their friends were watching, a big blue Morpho butterfly started to come out of its cocoon, and just then a band of howler monkeys stopped in the trees near the ranger’s house. When Choco heard them, he climbed to the top of the nearest tree. The monkeys shouted and beckoned to Choco to come, and off he went.

Everyone hoped he would be alright, and it looks like he is. Very often when the band of howlers come down from the high forest, one huge male monkey always stops for a few minutes near the ranger’s house before he goes off with the others, eating fresh forest leaves and looking meditatively down at the house and howling expertly. Everyone is sure it’s Choco. Sometimes at meeting for worship when a child is restless, a parent will remind them of the little monkey who went to meeting and was quiet the whole time.

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One thought on “The Monkey Who Went to Meeting

  1. Bill Matthews says:

    City & State
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    Hello Friends,

    I am a Friend in Cincinnati, OH, USA. Someone here told me about your group. Could someone form your group please contact me ?I would like to move to Costa Rica but first I would like to correspond with someone there for a while.

    Bill Matthews
    Cincinnati, Ohio, USA

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