The Most Important Job in Wilderness Therapy: An Ode to Miss Tammy

5 Tips to a Healthy Winter

Student at wilderness therapy program: “Does Miss Tammy own this company?”

Wilderness therapy instructor: “Why do you say that?”

Student: “Everyone’s always saying that she’s the most important person here.”

Instructor: “Well, that’s because she is.”

Wilderness therapy is the ultimate Hero’s Journey dance; a cyclical pattern of communication, efficiency, and passion.  It is a process that is always brought full circle, whether it be in reality or by metaphor.

Within that circular dance twirled Miss Tammy.

Miss Tammy had a strong stature, a strict demeanor, and a heart as large and as full as an angel. She wore her hair in a ponytail and white sneakers on her feet.

She was our lifeline.

Because Miss Tammy had the most important job in the wilderness therapy industry.

Miss Tammy was in charge of the food.

We were living in the wilderness. We were always hungry. So when Miss Tammy would speak, we would all listen; administration, staff, and students alike.

She could train a hundred twenty-something-year-olds to do laundry properly. She could convince the most stubborn teenage girls to remove their belly button rings. She could teach the toughest teenage boys to sweep a floor properly. She could comfort the saddest children into knowing that they would be alright for one more night.

She was the comfort we all longed for. Her image was a fragment of home. Her spirit was of every Grandmother who ever loved and cherished her grandchildren. We all sought that within her, and she always accepted the role with an open heart.

On one occasion, I had had a particularly long 24 hours of providing my students with an unwavering pillar of stability. I was physically tired and emotionally drained. I needed a break so I sought refuge in “Tammy’s World”, also known as the food room. I needed a granola bar and a minute to breathe. As I walked through the door, my eyes met Miss Tammy’s. “Honey, are you alright?” I wasn’t alright, she could always tell when we weren’t alright. I fell into Miss Tammy’s arms and I wept. She squeezed me tight. “You’re doing a good job out there.” She put a few extra granola bars in my hands and sent me on my way with redeemed spirits and renewed stability.

Throughout the years, hundreds of tired yet passionate faces have cycled in and out of “Tammy’s World”. We went in seeking nourishment, and that’s exactly what we acquired.  Miss Tammy filled our hearts with love and she sent us on our way. Off we went with hands full of granola bars and souls full of redeemed spirits and renewed stability.

Now, with heavy hearts and robust memories, we send Miss Tammy on her way.

May she be the guardian angel on our shoulders and the sunshine on our tired faces.

We love you, Miss Tammy.

Published by Fireflies and Jars

Hello! My name is Tracey Gerlach. Professionally, I am a Positive Psychology Practitioner and a Certified Therapeutic Recreation Specialist. Unprofessionally, I'm a doubting dreamer who's just trying to make every moment count. Follow along!

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