Here are some of the things I learned last week:
I read one morning that learning one new word in a foreign language each day fosters brain health. How could anybody resist such an optimistic opportunity and challenge?
So, as you have read in the headline of this column, the first learning experience I was able to log in on in my trajectory to improved brain health was an expression of gratitude. For the two or three of you who share my woeful lack of proficiency with America’s second language, that phrase means “I am so grateful.”
Let me tell you about some of the other things I learned and which richly deserve to generate gratitude.
I learned that test trains are running up and down the tracks in the Second Avenue Subway. And so besides being grateful, I also apologize for my comment in the inaugural Street Seens column that the subway line apparently had eternity as its due date. Workers on the Second Avenue Subway fortunately either never knew or had forgotten that I “dissed” it and by association, them, in that first column and were all smiles as they assured me that test trains on the line have had successful round trips as they check for proper functioning and put up signs to mark the many stops between here and Coney Island.
I learned that our national anguish of an endless electoral campaign will presumably end in less than two weeks. And I am grateful to be able to call up and invoke once again Abraham Lincoln’s invitation to summon up “our better angels” as we face the task of making peace in a respectful atmosphere where there are inevitable winners and losers. I am truly grateful that his words stand as a beacon as we work as hard as it will take to feel compassion for one another and turn aftermath into prelude to better things via better angels.
I learned that when I walk the block between Second and Third Avenues (the uphill path) that I am not just imagining that it seems longer than that. It is presumably because this was the location of horse barns housing the actual horsepower that fueled the earlier NYC public transport that preceded the now defunct Third Avenue “El” required that amount of square footage. Homes for these equine powerhouses set the perimeters that now define Manhattan House. In one stroke, history has decreed that both are provided the luxury of ample space.
“Sister Peggy” Dr. Margaret Ann Landry, RSHM
Finally, and most marvelously, I learned that there is such a heroine as “The Purple Nun,” and that she is not the central character in a graphic novel. She was a Religious of the Sacred Heart of Mary for more than five decades. In a community that takes as its mantra the scriptural promise to work to bring life and bring it more abundantly, it probably shouldn’t be surprising to review a chronology that includes service as a teacher, a college administrator, a faculty member of Marymount International School in what was then Umtali, Southern Rhodesia, and one who helped create there the mission school of St. Killian.
On return to the US she once more set out on an unexpected path for more than two decades as counselor and campus minister at Long Island’s Stony Brook University, where she could have been remembered as Dr. Margaret Ann Landry, RSHM; DHL upon receiving the University’s accolade of Doctor of Humane Letters. Instead though, to most of the scores of students, alumni, and colleagues who traveled to Tarrytown to honor her in a rainy night’s Vigil and the next Day’s jubilant Mass of Resurrection she was “Sister Peggy or The Purple Nun,” so called for her penchant for unifying her wardrobe around that single color.
Tens of thousands of shares on the linked social media pages of Stony Brook and the RSHM global network celebrated memories of the wise, practical and remarkably generous woman who always made time for the human concerns and aspirations that she respected as of first importance.
In a final commendation at her Funeral Mass at Marymount Convent in Tarrytown, the celebrant suggested that in this painfully fractured political season we might do well to consider that in her light we will come to see how red and blue reach new glory as purple. None better than she to discourage anyone who might consider that miracle impossible. French was the language she taught to students at Marymount School in Arlington, Virginia, but I think she will not object to being the heartfelt Amen! Alleluia! of a story about gratitude headlined “Soy tan Agradecida.”