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Four Years at the Mount

Mount writers share experiences, relationships and more that they are grateful for in a completely new way, this Thanksgiving season.

I'm Grateful For...

November 2016


Angela Tongohan.
MSM Class of 2020

I had a story ready for you. It was pretty heartwarming. I was going to start with a little anecdote and gradually move into how we should be thankful for the opportunity to wake up every morning to the bright shining sun. I even planned to include a few facts about my family and maybe even a few inspirational quotes; however, something happened this weekend that enhanced my idea of being thankful to an even deeper level, and I think you ought to know about it.

This weekend I went home for my motherís 50-something-th birthday. It was a surprise, so my dad picked me up pretty late. When I arrived at the house, a tiny, gold-and-white Papillon was waiting for me at the door. I have two dogs by the way. A Papillon and a beautiful black-and-white Prince Charles Spaniel. Their names are Tala and Tristan, respectively. After a few minutes of belly rubbing in celebration of our reunion, my dad and I set up for the surprise.

She was pleased, to say the least. She appreciated the cherry wood jewelry box I bought her and my dadís makeshift effort to make a card. We laughed and decided to save the cake for the next day since one in the morning was deemed "too late" for cake eating.

However, the focus of this story is not my motherís birthday, her gifts, or even her surprise. The focus of this story is actually my dogs.

No, not the Papillon.

When I saw only Tala that night, I had assumed that Tristan was running around the backyard. He was always the outdoorsy one. Tala didnít do much. She slept and ate and barked and slept and ate again. She wasnít a walks type of dog either. In fact, a few months before we got Tristan, we took Tala camping. Letís just say that after a severe case of overheating, a trek to the nearest water pump and a bath in the ice cooler, we were never taking Tala camping again, ever.

As Iíve mentioned in recent issues, I am an only child from a small family. My parents believed that if I spent day after day with only myself as company, I was bound to go insane. They decided I needed a companion. The first attempt was Tala. However, being that Tala enjoyed the company of the dust balls under my parentís bed more that she enjoyed spending time with me, we decided to try again.

I met Tristan on a farm. We had gone in search of fresh eggs and left with a shy puppy instead. Tristan was the most beautiful puppy I have ever seen. The farmer was gushing about how his dog had just given birth and, out of excitement, rushed in and grabbed one to show us. Puppy Tristan had the biggest, saddest eyes. His droopy ears were still rather short. After a failed attempt to hand him over to my dad, the man tried to give Tristan to me. He practically jumped into my arms.

It was amazing. I remember thinking to myself, "This must be how it feels like after giving birth!" One look at Tristan and I was overcome with an overwhelming and absolute love. I immediately turned to my dad and said, "We canít leave without him."

And we didnít.

I didnít know how to feel when my parents told me they gave him away.

At first I was confused. "What? To whom? Where?" They began to explain to me how they had given him away to a family whose daughter also went to the Mount, but I was no longer listening. I couldnít see anything; I couldnít hear anything. My mind was flooding with memories of Tristan. He was my best friend. We did everything together. We slept together, ate together, even watched movies together. When we moved houses, he stood by my door at night because I was afraid of the dark. He was so wonderfully loyal.

When I was sad, he would lick my hand and rub his ears against my eyes to wipe away the tears. He loved me unconditionally. He loved me absolutely. He loved me entirely. Even when I didnít return the love he deserved. I remember spending less and less time with him. As time to leave for college came closer, I remember opting to spend time with my friends more than choosing to spend time with him. I remember locking him out of my room more times than not. I would come home late and leave home early and forget to give him walks, but Tristanís love never failed. He was always waiting for me at the door with the same ratty tennis ball I gave him after my last season of high school tennis.

Oh, how I wished I appreciated him more. I met the family we gave him away to later on, and saw that they cared for him in a way that I no longer could. I will always be grateful for Tristan. He was such a huge part of my life. Heís made me realize the importance of unconditional love, and to appreciate those who do love me unconditionally. I have come to appreciate people who go out of their way to make me happy or to show me comfort. I find that it is so easy to take things for granted, like I took Tristan for granted. He has taught me so much, he taught me to love without expecting anything in return. Tristan was so special to me, and I am blessed that I was able to encounter such a beautiful love.

Read other articles by Angela Tongohan

Wherever this Train Takes Me

Michael Kenney Jr.
MSM Class of 2019

We live in a wonderful world that is full of beauty, charm, and adventure. There is no end to the adventures that we can have if only we seek them with our eyes open.
-Jawaharlal Nehru, First Indian Prime Minister

I recently visited New York City, and found that, although I was in one of the worldís most illustrious cities, a culmination of ordinary people and ordinary experiences made my trip unforgettable. I am thankful for everyday adventures, and for the humorous blunders, curious strangers, and generous loved ones that make life spontaneous. The story below highlights a blend of these attributes and illustrates a snapshot of an "everyday adventure" that augmented my experience.

"Did I just get on the wrong train?" I think to myself. I glance at my ticket and back towards the loudspeaker, which projected the conductorís ominous next destination: Philadelphia.

"Philadelphia? Iím supposed to be going to New York! Manhattan. Tonight." My eyes dart towards the other passengers, hoping one of them will catch my expression, decipher my novice train riding experience, and assure me of something definite like, "Son, youíre supposed to be on the next train" or "Donít sweat it, kid. Youíre just where you need to be," but no one does.

I rewind the directions the desk clerk gave me at the station. Out the door, left, and section D. I did that, hopefully.

I stop worrying for a moment and consider my encounter with the clerk. I approached her desk -- out of breath from my jog from the parking lot, decked out in sweats, and sporting two bulging backpacks like an oversized turtle shell.

"Hi, has the train left yetÖ? The one for Manhattan?" I smiled with enthusiastic naivety and she shook her head. "Great. Iíd like to print a ticket then please."

"I.D.?" she asked, not looking up from her computer. I felt around my pockets. I had forgotten my wallet in my dorm room. Whoops.

I glanced at my watch. I still had eight whole minutes before the trainís scheduled departed.

"Will a school I.D. work?" I ask.

"If itís valid," she says with monotonous irritation.

She printed out my ticket and, upon my request, repeated thrice how I should get to the correct platform. Out the main doors, turn left, section D.

My brief flashback ends. "She probably thought I was crazy," I think to myself as the train jolts into motion. "I guess sheíll have a good story to tell: ĎYou wouldnít believe it. This kid at the station tonightÖí Maybe sheíll laughs about our encounter later.

I look out the window and Baltimore blurs away. The moon, headlights, and illuminated office windows scintillate in an otherwise ink black city.

I sink back into my chair and find myself in uncanny composure. "If worst comes to worst, I end up in Philadelphia until I figure out the next train to Manhattan. Phillyís not that bad. The City of Brotherly Love. Great cheesesteaks. Maybe Iíll stay with Colin from high school. Iím pretty sure he goes to school in Philadelphia," I think to myself.

I close my eyes and think of the speech I will have to say to my mom if, in fact, I do end up in the wrong city: "Wow, Mom, I thought I was only in for a trip to New York and would you believe it?! I guess itís my lucky day! It looks like two cities in one trip. Before I explain, you remember Colin from high school -- he goes to school in Philadelphia, rightÖ?"

Iím exhausted. I let my backpacks slip to the floor, and the train sways me to sleep.

A couple of hours into my trip, I wake up and two new passengers sit adjacent to me. One of the men is bearded and tucks his long, wiry hair into a bun. The other is stout, and sits cross legged. Itís pretty cold outside, but they both wear shorts. They converse rapidly in another language, Arabic, I think.

Within minutes of their conversation, the bearded man rhythmically pats his legs as if they are bongo drums and starts singing Frank Sinatraís "New York, New York" with a reggae flare. The stout man laughs, and occasionally hums along.

They pull out a travel book titled Discovering New York City. They flip through the pages. One picture shows iconic landmarks: the Empire State Building, another Time Square, and another of the Statue of Liberty. I am most struck, however, by an image of a man Ė I suppose heís in Central Park Ė blowing bubbles into a flock of giddy children. Optimism is a choice, I suppose.

I arrive at New Yorkís Penn Station and call my sister. Sheís thrilled that Iíve arrived and says that sheís in the main concourse.

I come up the escalator, and I immediately spot her in a bright pink rain jacket, surrounded by a flurry of business suits. I jog over to her with the same exuberance that I approached the train clerk with.

An everyday adventure is only just beginning.

Over the course of the next few days, we would talk with people from all over the world, walk for hours on end through the concrete jungle, discover an amazing hole-in-the-wall pizza parlor, and stay up late telling stories. I am so thankful for her generosity and for the culmination of the "everyday adventures" that made my trip extraordinary.

Read other articles by Michael Kenney Jr.

The Usual Thanks

Sarah Muir
Class of 2018

The seasons have come and gone and I am here typing my Thanksgiving thanks to the usual lot, my family. This year it feels as though I have so much more to be thankful for. My magnificent sister is happily married to a wonderful man, my parents are in relative good health, and my own schooling is going as decent as it can be. I am especially thankful for the fall break the students here at Mount St. Maryís have just finished. I think I speak for everyone that vacations are something for which to be thankful. Whether they be three months long, two weeks long, or a three day weekend, they are blessed occasions to relax and enjoy having nothing to do. They also seem to come at the most opportune moments.

Apart from the odd few days we would spend in Ocean City every now and then, my family and I mostly stick close to home on the now rare occasions we all have a vacation at the same time. This year, my family, (except for my sister, who is a teacher, and therefore didn't have the same break we did), traveled a bit farther away than Maryland. After a 16 hour drive south, during which there was a surprisingly few amount of incidents, we arrived in New Orleans, Louisiana. I was there once before for three days, but that was too short to enjoy everything the French Quarter had to offer. I was thrilled to be with my family for several days without work or school work getting in the way.

The most enjoyable experience was going to a Sunday Mass at the oldest cathedral in America, St. Louis King of France. It was rebuilt in 1794 after the first major fire in 1788 razed it to the ground. However, its origins date back as far as 1727. It is truly a beautiful cathedral with frescoes, vaulted arches, gilded alter Ė the whole nine yards.

While we were there, we saw some family members that we haven't seen for ages. We don't see them often, and I still love them deeply. We used to see them all the time growing up and while not related to them by blood, I still consider them to be family. There is a saying, I'm sure you've heard, that blood is thicker than water. However, it has always been belief that family is more than just blood, it is bond.

With the holiday of Thanksgiving right around the corner, we are faced with an influx of relatives from all the corners of our lives. However, we are usually so busy running around we don't realize that we should be cherishing the moments we have with those we love while we have them close by and before they are scattered to the far corners of the world.

I find that Thanksgiving is often time overlooked, being in between Halloween and the much anticipated Christmas, and I think we forget that itís not about eating so much stuffing, turkey, and pie that you can barely move. Thanksgiving is about remembering all of the good. In todayís world, I think we have trouble recognizing it because we feel as though the little good things are overshadowed by the enormity of the bad things we see all the time, whether in the news or in our own lives. However, the good in the world shines through even if we refuse to acknowledge it. Find the small things in your life that make you smile and prove that the world still remains beautiful even if there is overwhelming evidence to the contrary. After you have found it, thank God (or the Universe, if it so pleases you) for the ability to see this light. For me, this "good" has been my family; those of both blood and bond. I have always felt and always will feel enormous gratitude towards God for my family and, this Thanksgiving, I will try to remember all the good that is still in the world and be thankful for every little bit of it.

Read other articles by Sarah Muir


Leanne Leary
MSM Class of 2017

This past month, Hurricane Matthew hit and crushed the Caribbean and a few states in the South. The overall death toll is currently estimated to have exceeded 580 people, the majority of whom were Haitian. The death toll is an estimate because there is not accurate reporting. Some reports claim over one thousand, while others claim 300-400. Some officials believe numbers have been inflated in a search for Foreign Aid, while others believe the deaths have been under-reported because of minimal accountability and post-hurricane-related deaths such as cholera, destruction of crops, and limited to non-existent access to food. Hundreds of thousands of people have lost their homes, an estimated 1.4 million people are in desperate need of food, babies were delivered in knee-deep waters, families are searching for missing loved ones, and children are at an increased risk for exploitation and trafficking.

Aid has been sent from around the world, but the international response seems minimal in comparison to other tragic events over the past few years. Without turning this into a social commentary, I have to ask: why isnít this an international tragedy? Why is the race against time for peoplesí livelihoods not flooding my Facebook newsfeed or my email inbox? I do not know; I do not know what is being done, and frankly, I could not do much about it even if I did know. So, before you get alarmed or turned off by my spiel of disheartening statistics, know this is going somewhere, I promise.

I spent the first ten days after the hurricane frustrated by the fact that nobody seemed to be doing anything. Frustrated by the fact that the initial few deaths in America seemed to matter so much more than the estimated thousand elsewhere. Now, the death toll has risen in both Haiti and America. Lives are being taken and deaths are being reported to this very moment. And still, the reaction is underwhelming. Again, I remained frustrated. What was being done? Iím sure something was. Iím sure as a 21 year-old, reasonably informed citizen I must be missing some information. Iím sure that there was more than one plane of aid sent in the first week, but what shocks me is not the government nor the NGO response. I am not qualified nor prepared to speak on either of those fronts. What shocked me was the general lack of care that I witnessed in all daily interactions. Numbers were slowly revealed, and emails were not forwarded. Still, I remained frustrated. What is going on here?

I expressed my frustration to a few people and received one response that stood out. Being frustrated will do nothing, it will produce no fruit. This is an opportunity in so many ways. It is an opportunity to become more educated, to pray, to reach out, and to recognize the dignity and simultaneous desperation that so many people are experiencing every second as they recover, whether from loss of home, food source, parent, child, belongings, and more. There is an incredible need and within that an incredible opportunity presents itself to us.

Okay, pause, I promise this is related to the theme I wrote at the top of this page.

"Mount students share experiences, relationships, and more, that they are grateful for in a completely new way this Thanksgiving season."

I promise, once more, that I am not thankful in any way that so many people are suffering so intensely right now.

I am thankful, though, for the people who are recognizing the human dignity of all victims and survivors. I am thankful for the people who are learning from this disaster, thankful for the people who have taught me to understand that a disaster anywhere is a disaster, thankful for the opportunity this presents for the world, and the international community, to come to the aid of people in need, and thankful for the conversation this creates in classrooms, offices, and more with the knowledge that conversation sparks response.

In those ten days that I spent in frustration, I was not thankful. I wish I could say that I was, that I immediately understood that I should focus on whatís next or that I grasped that concept of thanks, but I didnít. People were suffering, they still are, in two countries. I wondered if we, having the resources and response that we do in America, lacked the perspective to understand how lucky we are. I wondered, again, what was being done. I couldnít find any reason to be thankful, and I wasnít looking for one.

We are lucky, and we have so much to be thankful for. We have a new opportunity to engage in a new and productive way in the international community. We, as a country, have news systems, evacuation plans, cars and public transportation, generators, paved roads, community centers, insurance, alert systems, and so much more that kept the damage in our country to a minimum. Because of this, we are lucky enough to be in a position to engage in outreach, to increase global awareness, to focus efforts on recovery for ourselves and others, and more. We have the time, because of the systems we have in place, to pray, learn, educate, and find a fruitful way to enhance relief efforts and awareness. This is all actually an overwhelming amount for which to be thankful, I just didnít see it at first.

Read other articles by Leanne Leary

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