Friday, 3 September 2010

Making a Difference

This experience made me smile (and, I must admit, tear up a little) when it was told to me.

Blanche, our Blackfoot interpreter, has been working with us here at the museum for the past 8 years. Blanche is legally blind (though many people who do programs with her are not aware of this). Blanche has this incredible ability to captivate young and old alike with her stories and experiences. As she teaches Blackfoot history and culture, she is also about building bridges between people. There is, unfortunately, a great deal of prejudice and misunderstanding between cultures and especially with respect to the Blackfoot in southern Alberta. Blanche has often told me over the years experiences she has had in the community and her strong hope that eventually everyone will just be treated as people and not First Nations or white.

As I called her earlier this week to book a class, she related the following story to me.
For years, Blanche has told students about her limited vision and says that if they see her out and about in the community, they should come up to her and say oki (Blackfoot for “hi) and introduce themselves because she won’t be able to see them. In August this year Blanche was at Wal-Mart shopping with her son and grandson. As she was sitting there, a young girl walked past her, stopped and then walked towards her with her hand-outstretched. When she got in front of Blanche she said “oki” and then “oki, Museum Lady.” She was with her young brother and turned to him and said “this lady works at the Galt Museum. You and me and Mom and Dad should go and visit her there one day.”

At that point her Mom noticed her talking to Blanche (who, as far as she knew, was a stranger) and asked her daughter why she was bothering the lady. The daughter responded that she was the museum lady and that she wanted to say hello.

To the little girl, she may just have been saying hi to someone she recognized, but to Blanche it was so much more. Months after meeting Blanche at the museum, the young girl remembered her and remembered what she had said.

Blanche remembered the meeting as unbelievably beautiful and was deeply touched by this little girl and her brother. Blanche’s son who was standing beside her summed it all up. He looked at Blanche and said “Mom, you’re making a difference.” Isn’t that, really, what all of us want to achieve – make the world better by what we do every day? Thanks, Blanche, for all that you do for us (and the community) every day.

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