This is one of many stories from a wide variety of sources and a multitude of forms contributed by people upon request for my 70th birthday. They will be posted without editing, with the attribution that was with them. I will be posting these regularly until they run out next year sometime: if you have others to add, please send them to me.
am not sure if she is ordinary but I am sure she makes a positive difference in
the life’s and communities she touches. While
the story of how she got to be a positive force is relevant, that story is for
a different time. Tammy makes a difference
by creating space for others to have fun and enjoy their belief in
themselves. Sometimes she is mostly fun while
at other times she is mostly acknowledging others belief in themselves, usually
in a fun way.
has brought fun and belief in others to her varied work and volunteer career. For today I am going to share a couple of
vignettes from her current work in the Sudbury library as an events and
community programmer and will leave out stories from working as a sales person
selling shoes, cars, plants, creative memories, lip stick, her crafts (hand
decorated Santa clauses, stain glass, pottery) and managing a home decorating
products store, or as teachers aid with a severely autistic child for four
years, running a home daycare, staffing a tourist information center on the
Canadian Border during and after 9/11.
will also leave out stories from her time as a volunteer board member and then
president of a figure skating club responsible for hosting a major skating
competition that included a young Eric Radford, Jeffery Buttle and likely
Meagan Duhamel. As an aside, I would argue presiding over a figure skating club
and a large regional skating competition is more difficult than running a
some stories about the difference Miss Tammy makes….she has been doing
children’s story times at various libraries in Sudbury for upwards of 15 years
and fairly consistently develops a faithful following of kids and families who
attend her story time over a few years. Miss Tammy story times are animated
participatory events where kids, parents, caregivers and grandparent get to
sing, read, cheer, whisper and are essential to her story telling process. When
the kids go to school she loses track of them, sometime for years, however
fairly regularly now some of those same story time kids will seek her out at
the library or stop her in a mall, on the street or at an event, to proudly
tell her what they are doing and thank her for the positive impact she had on them
as a child. Many of these people are
particularly thankful for turning them on to reading and learning. This year,
one of the new comers invited her to her second birthday party, and she will
who has been around libraries for any amount to time knows that libraries are
relatively safe places for people who often are struggling with poverty, mental
wellness, criminal justice issues, addictions and loneliness. Over the years Miss Tammy has made many
people feel welcome and supported at her various libraries. Some of these people follow her when she
moves to a new library location. For
example, over 10 years ago two indigenous teenage boys, living in a nearby
group home came into the library and clearly were in need of a safe haven,
despite conveying a tough outward appearance.
Tammy engaged them, gave them a library card and to their complete disbelief
allowed them to take out and return the movies, games, books and magazines they
had been stealing from the library. This
opened the door for the development of ongoing relationship where each of the
boys will independently or together periodically stop into the library to
either confess a set-back like having been in jail or falling back into drugs,
discussing their resolve to do better, share a significant decision or
occurrence in their life or announcing a success like finishing a training
program, getting a job, having a girlfriend and being a father. Usually during these visits they thank her
for believing in them.
final story is about creating an opportunity for people to tell their
stories. Because of how she does her
job, everyone is a person first and a library patron second. She engages people in a way they feel safe
and willing to risk sharing who they are and often people/patrons share very
intimate and important things about themselves and their lives. For the third time the Sudbury library and
CBC partnered in a Living Library Day, where patrons can “check out” one of ten
people to talk with for 20 minutes. Some
of the people in this year’s line-up are people who shared personal information
allowing her to approach them about being one of the ten. This year the theme was surviving life
changing experiences and the lineup included the following people and stories:
- Candice Kirkbride was 15
when a collision with a drunk driver left her with a traumatic brain
- Retired Corporal
William Kerr lost both his legs and part of an
arm to an explosive device while on foot patrol during his second tour of
duty in Afghanistan.
- Pina Cotesta lost
her daughter Laura after a decade-long battle with cancer, and has
recently put together a memoir based on her daughter’s writings.
- Jose Vivar spent
more than 8 years in prison for his role in the drug wars in Toronto
and survived an attempt on his life after his release.
- Don Perreault had a
double lung transplant, 20 years after a bone marrow transplant that
ruined his lungs.
- Greg Cotnam experienced
a traumatic mining accident when the rock face he was preparing for
- Sarah Mann grew
up in extreme poverty, and is now dealing with PTSD with her service dog
at her side.
- Winnie and Bill
Pitawanakwat are elders who both experienced
abuse and loss of culture as children.
- Kimberly Naponse and
her family were in Las Vegas for a country music festival when the
deadliest mass shooting by one person in U.S. history occurred.
When Sarah came to the library to host a writing workshop for survivors of the 60s scoop, Miss Tammy engaged her and supported her to take the risk of participating in the living library this year. Earlier in the day she was interviewed for CBC, Tammy and Sarah had an internet exchange where Tammy encouraged her to not miss the third interview appointment.
are only three of the hundreds of stories where Miss Tammy has made a positive
difference in people’s lives.