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Four Years at the Mount

Gifts Worth Giving

December, 2013

December holidays are often associated with happy gift exchanges and family feasts, but we challenged our writers to think deeper than Santa's sack of goodies for a gift that means a little more than the average trinket. In response, this month's articles are filled with meaningful presents - ones that mean something more to the authors and ones that you as a reader can freely give. Funnily enough, none of them could fit under a Christmas tree.

The Greatest Gift

Leeanne Leary
Class of 2017

Time: the greatest gift one can give or receive. Time is a gift that may be underappreciated at times, but in the end, all anyone really wants is more time. Time with family or friends, time to relax, and time to have fun. Similarly, as it is our greatest desire, time is also the greatest gift we have to give.

In my churchís youth group, each week we had a new topic always relating to time, talents, or treasures in connection with service. We were taught from day one that even if we have all the unique talents and valuable treasures in the world, they mean nothing if we do not give our invaluable time to share them. This time seems to gain value around the holidays as we try to take as much time off from work to spend as much time as we can celebrating with family. Sometimes people are too busy giving elsewhere that they donít have these same opportunities. These selfless men and women, willing to give everything protecting our freedom and that of others by serving our country, are our soldiers.

This month I went to the New York Giants and Green Bay Packers football game at MetLife stadium in New Jersey, and it just so happened to be Military Appreciation Day. The entire game was geared towards honoring veterans and active members of the armed forces, but the most touching part was during a media timeout early in the second quarter. As the players stood on the field to watch, a wife and daughter stood at the entrance to a corner tunnel and waved to the stands as they were recognized as the family of an active soldier currently deployed. Their soldier was not set to return to the United States for several months, and everyone in the stadium cheered as they recognized the sacrifices that the mother and daughter were making here at home.

Then, instantly the audience and players erupted into cheers and applause that could be heard for miles. The mother and daughter looked around, oblivious to the man who had just stepped out of the other tunnel in his army greens and was now running towards them. They remained confused as the announcer said, "And now if youíll look to your right, an early Christmas present from the New York Giants!"

The reunion that took place on the field, magnified on the screens around us, was enough to bring everyone to tears. Here was a man prepared to give the ultimate gift of time, who had already given more than most could even imagine, crying as he embraced his family. The recognition of his sacrifice rang true throughout the entire stadium.

Too many are away for the holidays. Too many miss their childrenís birthdays, Christmas morning, anniversaries, and weddings. Too many miss so much as they give all they have to give, sharing their greatest gift Ė time Ė with others.

In 2003, Sergeant Ristaino, a full-time army recruiter and member of St. Maryís Church in Annapolis, began to work for those who so willingly shared themselves with all. Ristainoís inspiration came when he was watching his 12 children make mission rosaries for their Junior Legion of Mary group. Knowing these rosaries would not be strong enough for combat, he designed the Ranger Rosary made with parachute cord, dark beads, and no metal parts for safety.

Soon after, other home-schooled families began to help make the rosaries. The word passed from one chaplain to another: "Free combat rosaries are available from St. Maryís of Annapolis, Maryland." Military in war-torn areas are especially thankful for the strength and protection these holy rosaries bring. Groups who prayed the rosaries started to form, especially on the front lines. Those rosaries became a simple sign of the time and effort that we are willing to give to the brave men and women giving each and every second that they have.

A remarkable blessing took place in Afghanistan this past year when a young Marine, a recent graduate of the Naval Academy, was stationed as an officer at a frontline base. His convoy came under heavy fire in an ambush attack, and the first tank exploded in flames. His best friend was in that tank while he was in the third one. Because of the continued assault, he was unable to reach the engulfed tank until the Air Force was called in to quell the fighting. When he was finally able to race to the first tank, he was amazed to see the entire crew climb out of the burning vehicle without any burns or other injuries. These warriors emerging unscathed were the same men who had prayed the rosary together every night at camp. When asked later, they credited the miracle that had happened to that simple act.

Hundreds of thousands of combat rosaries have been made and sent to soldiers of every denomination, but the nonprofit, donation-based organization cannot function without your help. Give your gift of time and resources, so our brave soldiers can continue to feel loved and connected as they give their greatest gift.

Funds are necessary to purchase the rosary making material. Ranger Rosary is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt, all-volunteer charity that relies solely on private donations. Without generous donors like you, they would not be able to continue this holy ministry. Contact rangerrosaryinc@verizon.net or call 410-990-4100 ext. 4714 for more information.

Give the greatest gift you can this season, and support the people giving everything they can. After all, itís their time that makes a difference.

Read other articles by Leeanne Leary


Gifts That Canít Be Wrapped

Lydia Olsen
Class of 2016

On Christmas morning I am no longer a college kid who sleeps until noon but an excited child whose eyes wonít stay shut. The moment I wake, I immediately hop up and look outside my bedroom window, hoping to see a blanket of white covering the ground. Instead I see the neighborís three children running outside and cheering with excitement as they discover the new trampoline in their backyard. They race down their porch stairs and run through the yard before jumping up and down in their matching flannel pajamas.

I wait under my covers until it is late enough that I can wake up the rest of the house without my familyís disapproval. While waiting anxiously, I hear my bedroom door crack open, and I turn to see who it could be. My cat enters my room and walks over to me with her tail straight up in the air. I canít help but recall the familiarity in this scene. The first time we met was years ago on Christmas morning. She snuck into my bedroom the same way she always does and woke me up by brushing her whiskers against my cheek. I was startled and completely perplexed about how and why there was a kitten on my bed. What a surprise that was! When I noticed the bow tied around her neck I began to think that she was a gift, but I never imagined that she was for me. Every year since, she has walked into my bedroom on Christmas morning. As if it were tradition, she lies down in front of me, and we watch the clock across the room slowly count down.

The time finally comes, and I roll out of bed and quickly put on my slippers. I open my door and rush over to my sistersí rooms. From experience I know I should always start with Jenna first. I push open the bedroom door and whisper her name, gradually getting louder until she finally stirs. I sit down beside her, and we devise a plan to wake up our other sister, Kelsey. Waking her is not a task that can be accomplished alone and failure is always imminent. Jenna and I are aware of the importance of teamwork and know that the plan must be executed precisely. The two of us stand outside Kelseyís door and finalize our attack before pouncing. Jenna pushes open the door, and I get a running start. I jump onto Kelseyís bed and bounce up and down as if her bed was my new trampoline. Jenna and I then start loudly singing Christmas carols. When Kelsey takes the pillow from under her head and uses it to cover her ears, I know we are making progress. Our song gets louder and louder until Kelsey sits up and tries to silence our singing voices by insisting she is awake. Pleased with our success, Jenna and I smile knowingly at each other. The three of us leave Kelseyís room to find our other family members, venturing past the tree as we do. I have to cover my eyes so that I donít peek at the Christmas tree in all its beauty until weíre all together. After a few more planned wakeup attacks and a brief pause to don Christmas sweaters, weíre finally ready to celebrate.

When the wrapping paper lies crumbled on the floor with bows and tinsel, the Christmas cookies have all disappeared, and the fridge is filled with leftovers for the week, my mom and I know it is time. Pulling on our boots over our layers, buttoning our jackets, and finding our gloves, we walk out into dusk. With a bag of carrots and cut apples in hand, we hop into the car and drive that old familiar route. When we reach the red gate, I throw off my seat belt and get out of the car. Unclipping the chain, I open the gate to let my mom and her car through so they can continue on the dirt road. I wait as they drive past, then I take off. I sprint past the gate, through a field and into the darkness, the sound of my heavy boots rushing through the grass signals my approach. Before I even reach her pen I know she will be there, that 15 hand, chestnut mare waiting and welcoming me. My beautiful present Indy.

I slide through the crack in the fence and we greet each other, our breath visible in the brisk December air. With disappointment, her tongue would lick my empty palm before she eagerly insists in showing me the way to her stall, grunting with anticipation. I let her inside, and she paces back and forth with excitement. In the barn I look for a note on that green dry-erase board, and I smile as I write, "I hope you had a great Christmas too, Mrs. Pam!" in response to the barn owner. My mother and I break the thin layer of ice across the top of the water tub and carry buckets to refill it. I walk over to the bin that holds reused plastic coffee cans, each already measured with feed. I grab one and enter back into Indyís stall. She matches my steps as we walk to her feed bucket. The moment I open the can, a mixture of scents fills my nose. I breathe in the combination of honey, oats, and molasses as Indy quickly devours her food. She licks the bucket thoroughly to make sure she hasnít missed anything before walking to the flakes of hay my mother and I had set out for her. Indy happily finishes her dinner while my mom and I brush the dirt from her hair and clean out her hooves. We pat her neck and comb her mane as we talk about the day and about how Christmas came and went too fast. As Indy nudges my pockets, insisting I give her more peppermint treats, my mom and I discuss the gifts we gave and the gifts we received. Somehow we seem to forget to mention the gift we are experiencing right then.

Since I was first able to write to Santa, all I ever asked for was a horse. Indy wasnít ever mine to keep. She was simply mine to borrow, but the lessons she taught me and the memories we shared made our time together one of the greatest gifts I have ever received. Not only did she help me grow and ease the troubles of my adolescent years, she instructed me on how to communicate without using words and strengthened my relationship with my mother. I will forever cherish the times the three of us spent in each otherís presence. This year, donít expect to find the greatest gifts in perfectly wrapped boxes, but rather with those you love doing what you enjoy. This Christmas, may you create moments that will last forever.

Read other articles by Lydia Olsen


The Paper Gave to Me...

Kyle Ott
MSM Class of 2015

When I was in elementary school, we read a peculiar story called "The Gift of The Magi" by Old Henry. I remember sitting there in the library, cross-legged on the carpet square I had carried with me and just wondering at the love that two people could bear for one another. Something about the piece resonated with me, and even then, before I had decided that I wanted to write for a living (heck, before I had even considered making a living at all) that story resonated with me. Old Henry had struck some primal chord in my mind that just seemed to stick, and I remembered that tale even when all the other little details about my earlier life started to fade.

Years have passed now, but that story still resonates with me. In an age where most people are concerned with beating the lines on Black Friday, making sure they find a nice Christmas tree, or catching every single re-rerun of How The Grinch Stole Christmas (which I could never blame them for), I start thinking about that story and whether or not someone could give a gift that meant so much. For me, that gift came from Mike Hillman, the editor of this paper and a great mentor. It truly is the most terrifying of things when youíre a young freshman and you inform upperclassmen youíll be pursuing an English major, and they laugh. Itís a scary world out there, and jobs are getting fewer and fewer while the demand for them is getting higher. Imagine, just starting out in college and already wondering what the heck youíre going to do with your life. About a week in, I received a call from Mike (who I had never met before) telling me that not only had I secured the job, but I was also working for an editor who had flunked English in college. A while back I wrote a lovely article about the relationship that Mike and I have Ė hint: itís more like Abbot and Costello then an editor and writer. However, this time I want to focus on the gift that itís been to be able to write for a paper that I like as much as the Emmitsburg News-Journal.

The first thing I love is the people. When you have the chance to work closely with a group of talented individuals like the ones we have, it is challenging, wonderful, and at times incredibly funny. In particular, I relish the moments when everyone is sitting in the library, waiting for Mike to walk in so our monthly meeting can start. Almost every time we have a staff meeting, Mike will walk in, take a seat, and then ask us a question. Sometimes the question is an obvious one about history that we should probably know (the anniversary of JFKís assassination), and sometimes itís something that no one would ever care to remember (how long a particular tri-state drought has lasted for instance). Before he arrives, we all have the chance to place bets on what kind of question heíll ask and if any of us will immediately know the answer. Spoiler alert: we never do. Although we never actually guess the answer correctly, itís wonderful to laugh and joke about whatís coming down the line.

The second of the paperís little gifts is the opportunity to do real, meaningful writing and get paid to do it. Itís a running joke on the Internet that every other person who wants to be a writer goes on to work in a coffee shop while perpetually working on a "novel" that they never finish. With all those things in mind, I actually feel lucky every time I sit down to write something that I not only love, but that I also know people read. Weíre blessed with a phenomenal readership, and itís humbling to think that someone out there takes time to sit down and read what I have to say about life every month. People go through life constantly trying to find something that will make a difference, or at the very least affect someone in some small way, and Iíd like to think that I have just a little bit.

The final of the paperís gifts to me is its improvement to my writing. Is it a bummer having to change articles sometimes? Absolutely. Is it sometimes difficult having to establish ideas to fit an overarching theme so the whole paper blends together seamlessly? Without a doubt. Do all the edits, rewrites, and toils make a better product? You had better believe it! The old adage about gold being tested in fire is, in fact, right on the money. Every time I find myself stretching for new ideas, working hard to integrate the concepts I want to talk about within the larger context of the paper, I feel my writing become a little bit better, and every time it becomes just a little easier. Itís constant work, but it really does pay to be consistently held to a higher standard and to know that people count on you to deliver something that everyone can enjoy and get behind.

With all that said, Mike, thank you for the greater gift that you gave me. Thank you for giving some starry eyed freshman kid the chance to do what he loves more than anything else. Yes, you can scold me for brownnosing, but the fact is this paper is one of the most important gifts Iíve been given. Until then, reflect on the things weíve been given, and as always, stay and read for a while.

Read other articles by Kyle Ott


Quality Time with Quality Friends

Nicole Jones
Class of 2014

Senior year has proven to be the most stressful year of my life. Between 15 credits, 5 graduate school applications, 3 jobs, and a social life, sometimes itís hard to stay positive and motivated. I know many of my fellow seniors are in the same boat of stress (some are even overboard with a life vest), but when all is said and done, Iíve only found one thing that truly helps: spending quality time with the right people.

Of course, this has a different definition to different people and scenarios. Sometimes all I need is someone to listen to my concerns and nod attentively at all the right moments. Other days, I need someone to go on an off-campus adventure with to break free from the constraints of academic responsibilities. This semester has been filled with opportunities for me to both give and receive these gifts of quality time with others, the most recent of which was a trip to Baltimore, MD, for an exciting first attempt at running a 5k.

Most of my friends are active individuals who enjoy a personal challenge, be it intellectual or physical. New experiences are an exciting part of daily life as one of their companions, so naturally there came a time when we decided to run a 5k together. After looking around at different runs both on and off campus, we settled on the Color Run.

The Color Run is a 5k race that travels the world celebrating healthiness and happiness as well as supporting a local charity in its host city. The Baltimore race supported the Cool Kids Campaign, a charity that supports pediatric oncology patients and their families by providing resources for educational, social and emotional support.

We woke up Sunday, Nov. 17 at five in the morning. I had only had five hours of sleep the night before, but with a thermos of hot walnut tea, I sleepily climbed into my friendís car and took over the navigation system. Some impromptu karaoke and an hour-long car ride later, we found ourselves in the foggy streets of Baltimoreís Inner Harbor.

Winding our way to Camden Yards, we gradually began to see fellow Color Runners dressed in white, prepared for the shower of color that was about to stain their day the colors of the rainbow. We stretched and warmed our muscles, jogged in place, and took pictures before being swept away in a herd of bodies pressing towards the start line. 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, GO! A thunderous cheer sent off wave after wave of runners. Packets of colored powder were tossed in the air, dusting the ground with pink, blue, and green.

I jogged past the walkers on the right-hand side of the fenced-off path. My friends and I sang along with the music blasting over the speakers placed along the path. Then we saw it. A cloud of yellow appeared ahead of us. We tossed our hands into the air and ran faster as pediatric oncology patients released an endless stream of yellow powder. I ran through the cloud, cheering on my attackers and enjoying the smiles the color brought to their faces. Yellow, purple, pink, orange, and blue. The finish line welcomed us with a block party, where more color was thrown, circus performers dazzled, and my friends danced, sang and took endless photos together.

When it was time to leave, we wore our colors proudly through the streets of Baltimore, stopping at the local Panera Bread for a much needed repast. Others looked at us with varying degrees of interest. Some people laughed, businesspersons gave us a wide berth for fear of ruining their suit, and children smiled. My favorite people were those who actually asked what the run was about.

"What do you mean what is it about?" I had asked the first person who asked me this as I washed my hands in the bathroom, sending a swirling pool of blackish blue water down the drain.

"Whatís it for? Why do you do it?" asked the lady with a curious smile as she waited for the sink with a toddler on her arm.

"WellÖ we sort of just did it for fun to try something new, but it also supports a great cause: The Cool Kids Campaign, which supports pediatric cancer survivors," I explained. This young mother was only the beginning of the inundation of questions and curious glances. During our meal, at the crosswalk back to our parking spot, even once we returned to campus, everywhere we went people asked us what it was we stood for. Cool Kids. I was excited to advocate the cause.

It was incredible to think how the simple act of wanting to try something new with my friends like running a 5k could have a much larger impact. Just by having fun with my friends, I suddenly became part of a cause much greater than myself. Soon, it was easy to spout off what my vibrant colors meant. I told fellow Panera customers, the people shopping the streets of the Baltimore Inner Harbor, and the cashier at my campus food court. Everyone supported it. Some people had participated before. Others had connections to Cool Kids and were excited to meet fellow supporters. I was excited to be so incredibly blessed to have experienced the gift of quality time with my friends while still being able to give back to a community in need.

What inspires me the most is that I was not actually seeking to give in this situation. I was merely seeking a fun time, time with friends and time away from schoolwork. While I did have this "me" time, the Color Run surprised me by reversing my role from receiver into giver. I was unexpectedly able to give back, advocating a cause from Baltimore and Emmitsburg alike and leaving people with a positive and colorful impression they wonít soon forget. It showed me that every situation is an opportunity to give, even when we are seeking only to receive. There is always something more we can do for the others around us. I encourage you to take the holidays as a chance to do that extra something for someone in your life, or even for the unsuspecting stranger. Youíll both be glad you did.

Read other articles by Nicole Jones

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