HOME Sarah Wondsel

I've been very blessed to grow up in the small, beautiful beach town of Point Lookout, New York. Living in my own personal paradise for the past 20 years, I have come to find God's beauty in my daily surroundings. Whether it's waking up early to catch a sunset and grab a good bacon-egg-and-cheese on a (superior) Long Island bagel with friends, enjoying a sunset swim in the July ocean, or calling in pizza to be delivered to the beach (my favorite!), I am reminded of the beauty in all God's creations.

(Below is a picture of 6 friends who managed to get out of bed to see a sunset at 5:15 am. )

The pavilion, a triple triangular structure that could be considered my towns landmark and local beach shelter, is one of the main way I find God in my surroundings. While growing up, the pavilion would be somewhere for me to eat ice cream with friends, play volleyball in the sand, or a place for the towns youth to hang out at night (while trying not to get caught by public safety officers). Through my faith, I have always seen the three triangles on the top of the pavilion as a symbol of the Holy Trinity and God's unwavering presence, especially when seeing it over a good summer sunset.

Though the structure built in the early 1970's was recently demolished this past January due to destruction following Super Storm Sandy, it has been a great monument of our town and a meeting place for all locals to enjoy.

Below is a picture of locals saying goodbye to the pavilion at was was its farewell party before construction. Even in its destruction, the pavilion has continued to be a site of God for me, especially during this event that brought everybody together.

While discussing themes of modern racism in America during class at the end of Black History Month, I have been reflecting on how I view and treat my neighbors of every race. Coming from a small town that’s population mostly consists of white Irish Catholics (who are all somehow related to each other), there has been an apparent lack of diversity in the surroundings I grew in. As a young student in elementary school, classmates from other towns would often make comments associating my town with racism due to the lack of a diverse population. While these childish claims would somewhat offend me, I never think too much about them because I knew that I did not partake in such activity. Growing up, my older brother’s best friend in our small town was one of the few African American residents during that time. When my brother and his friend, Martin, got older, Martin’s great aunt who was his guardian passed away and Martin and his mother were unable to maintain a residence in our town. Because his great aunt and my grandmother were close and lived on the same street in our small town of Point Lookout, my grandma offered and provided Martin and his mother with an extra family house we normally rent out to stay in until they could make further arrangements and find a home somewhere close by. This generous act of kindness on my grandmother’s part demonstrated to me at a young age that we should truly love our neighbors, and it does not matter if our neighbors are of a different race, religion etc. Though my town remains primarily Irish-Catholic dominated, we have recently experienced an influx of new residents, helping in diversifying our town and teaching us to all respect each other.

While discussing how film and media reinforces racism and themes of segregation in class this past week, I have reflected on variations of segregation or how some dislike others based on an uneducated preconceived notion. While my generation has not first-hand experienced our country’s hideous history with legalized segregation, media portrayals, especially in current news, has influenced viewers thinking and teaches themes of hatred and superiority. In my hometown of Point Lookout, New York, the “common enemy” that seems to be ostracized are people from out of town, “Out of Town-ers or OT’s”, who come in and exploit are limited local parking and private beach that residents pay for with their taxes. Many adults seem to frequently complain in our towns Facebook page about our small beach space being taken over by non-residents or how narrow drive ways get blocked by cars belonging to neighbors’ visitors or non-residents. Being a small town on the South Shore of Long Island, visitors to our town directly contribute to the success of our small businesses and local restaurants, which get most of their business during the busy summer season. Though having these non-residents visit helps keep our town prosperous and keep locals employed, these out of towners have been collectively ostracized by residents and have been blamed for many of the problems that have happened to our town beaches, such as leaving immense garbage, etc. Even local meme pages regarding our town have made joking posts regarding the overall dislike towards Point Lookout’s non-resident visitors.

Though these jokes and posts bring humor to the subject, they still play into the overall accepted public blame and hostility between residents and non-residents. While many residents seem set in their views towards non-residents, I think their presence will soon be more accepted as locals realize the benefits of having visitors.

As we have explored themes of finding joy in the mundane in class this week, I was reminded of my childhood during summers in Point Lookout. For me, summertime was the season associated with family. During the summer months, many of my cousins would visit town who I otherwise would not see throughout the year. Though many of my cousins were far older than me, the few who are my age would pass time with my friends and I. The shared family house my cousins would stay at looks across the bay as it has the beach as its backyard. This would be the prime location of play for the group of friends and family that I integrated as we would play pretend games. Most of the time our games would be inspired by whatever episode of “Lost” aired that week, as we would run around in the sand pretending that we were stranded on a desert island and had to fight for survival. One of the joys of being that young is that we would never run out of creative material to add to whatever we were playing. One day, we focused our efforts in search of food on the island, eventually finding pinecones we would pretend were able to physically sustain us. If we were not playing on the beach, we would be finding some other sort of adventure, whether it be riding our bikes around town pretending we were a motorcycle gang or going swimming and acting as if we were mermaids. No matter how much time we spent playing with each other, we were always ready to get up and start again the next day. Part of the beauty of living in a small, quaint beach town is the endless supply of ground to play on, whether it be our own backyards with grass, the beach, dunes, or town park. These spaces allowed for my cousins, friends, and I to explore our fantasies and creativity in everyday life.

While watching Arrival and exploring themes of consequentialism, I am reminded of the lack of communication and understanding in my hometown of Point Lookout, New York following the destruction of Super Storm Sandy in October 2012.

The above photos show the destruction to the previously mentioned pavilion and the destruction at my family’s fishing station that I work at during my summers. In these pictures, you can see the devastating state of everything following the storm, including my uncle, the owner, and our close family friend on site working on the damage. Because my town is so small, we do not have our own local town government, but instead have representatives in our county government. While our representatives do not have an understanding of what our town truly needs, they lack communication with the residents which does not help matters. While many residents had insurance cover their property and vehicle damages, our beach suffered horrible erosion causing our beach to shrink to almost half of what is once was. Not until this past January did our town government begin construction on our beach, almost 7 years after the hurricane. Like the aliens and world leaders in the film Arrival, our residents and representatives lack communication and the ability to meet one another’s needs. While our beach will constantly require dredging work to be done every few summers to add sand and rocks to build up our beach for protection, our representatives deemed it necessary to turn our small private beach town into a commercial opportunity and build a large boardwalk, which will require more maintenance that they will most likely not supply.

After reading and discussing Wilfrien N’Sondé’s “The Heart of the Leopard Children” I gained a better understanding of what some people endure in order feel a sense of belonging. While depicting violence, this novel has also opened my eyes that not all that seems bad or evil truly is. Two summers ago, I was searching for a sense of belonging myself. Feeling a lack of adventure or spontaneity from my current group of friends, I started spending my free time with an adventurous group of boys that I’ve known of my entire life but never truly tried to get to know. While these boys would often be seen as loud trouble makers due to their style and skateboarding, they showed me how to enjoy the little things and find fun in my everyday life. While some of them are my coworkers at my uncles fishing station, sharing a shift with one of the guys makes my work a lot easier as I’m often able to joke around during it with my friends. One night during the beginning of our friendship, I was truly shocked at these boys’ maturity, despite their easygoingness. While a younger teenage group of boys were vandalizing windows at one of the buildings on our beach and breaking lightbulbs, one of my friends politely told them to stop the vandalism because my group of friends was the one adults in town would blame the destruction on. While this boy later got beaten up for telling this kid off, I was still shocked he took their actions seriously enough that he had the integrity to put the younger group in their place. Many other teenage boys would not have the awareness and courage to stand up for what they believe in, especially enough to take a couple punches for it. While this group of boys is often seen as troublesome and degenerates, I have witnessed the good in them and am thankful for their friendship.

While construction is still going on and will hopefully be done in time for this summer, our residents must work on communication with local government in order to make sure our town is provided with all we need.

When viewing La Haine and discussing it during class, I was truly enlightened on the subject of fighting for what one believes in despite it not being widely socially acceptable. While Vinz, Said and Hubert fight in result of the riots forming between civilians and police officers due to the police brutality towards a young Arab man, they practiced acting on their feelings instead of turning the other cheek. This reminded me of a debacle between the Point Lookout – Lido Fire Department and my uncle’s fishing station. While the local fire department owns a small portion of my uncle’s land, they have had a previous agreement and settled on payment and use of the land as a parking lot. As if forgetting about this arrangement, the fire department tried to publicly sell my uncles waterfront land in the summer of 2018. Due to their legal contract, the fire department was required to put it up to a town vote whether or not my uncle should have first priority to fully purchase his land before it goes on sale to the public. While many town meetings followed informing the town’s residents of the situation, my family fought to spread the word to vote yes for Ted’s Fishing Station to keep their land. This was quite unpopular throughout my town because the fire department it almost like our own form of government and most people have a family member who volunteer or help the fire department. While I often felt I was being speculated when walking around town clad in my Ted’s T-Shirts to spread the word, it payed off because the town voted yes for my uncle to buy his own land. While this small situation allows me to relate to the notion of fighting for something unpopular that you believe in, it does not compare to the severity of what La Haine depicts in 1995 France.

As our class viewed and discussed the film The Intouchables, Driss and Philippe’s friendship has taught me the importance of trying new things and learning from an older generation. At one of my main summer job at Salt Air Café, an organic farm-to-table establishment next-door to my house, I have bonded with a woman who has taught me a lot through her stories. While Kelly Kelliher is my boss, she’s also watched me grow into the person I am today as I’ve been working for her for 5 summers now. As a middle-aged woman and a mother, I often forget she has a life outside of her family and café she cooks at and manages. Our after-shift conversations have let us bond in a way I never imagined. Kelly trained at an Olympic level as a child for track and field and was recruited to Villanova for her incredible athletic ability. Hearing her many stories of training as a child, I was shocked at her broad background experiences. Talking with Kelly has taught me that as a child she dealt with an older sibling who was an addict and having a baby in the family pass away and losing both of her parents within a year. Many of the things she has mentioned to me in her life have been something I share in common with her. Outside of our professional relationship, I’m able to go to the café whenever I want, and she’ll often talk to me or make me a meal if she senses somethings wrong. My relationship with my boss has improved my understanding of my parents’ generation and has given me a greater compassion for them. My coworkers and boss have become a second family for me and I’m so grateful for my home next to home.

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