Saturday Snap – Mom’s Lifetime Membership in SUN (and some thoughts on where she’s influenced me – it might not be where you’d expect!)

One benefit of being home with the baby for a couple weeks was that Shea, Sasha and I were able to slip out one afternoon earlier this week for one of Sasha’s first-ever outings.

We snuck into the SUN AGM & Conference to see my mom receive a Lifetime Membership from the organization (she’d also received a Leadership Award earlier in the day.)

Both were well-deserved honours after a nearly 40 year career in nursing (she “retired” four years ago but like many small town nurses, continued continued working after retirement).  Although her nursing career pre-dated the union, she spent many years involved with the union in progressively more advanced roles including as a long-time member of their Board of Directors (working closely with one of the most effective labour leaders this province has ever seen.)

Based on that, you’d probably think that I get my political and union activism from my mom but for the most part, mom has never been a “brothers and sisters, rah-rah!” union member or taken the next step in terms of political engagement (until this year, she’s never held a party membership as far as I know.)  Instead, like SUN itself, she’s studiously non-partisan with her main goal with her union involvement always having been the improvement of nurses’ circumstances, especially rural nurses and nurses of her generation (although I know many young nurses in Indian Head – including the one who nominated her for her Leadership Award – who cite her as a mentor and role model for their own careers.)

If I didn’t get my political activism from mom, there’s lots I did get from her – a strong, boisterous, fun-loving personality, an empathic  dedication to the underdog, a career choice that allowed me to serve my community including those who are often in positions of greatest need.

I’d proofed her Award acceptance speech but she went off script with a couple points that also brought home our commonality in other ways – she cited a book that she encouraged all new nurses to read and she spoke about how, in her view, the union isn’t about the Executive or the staff or any one person – it’s about the grassroots, every day members.  I feel that way about most organizational structures – whether it’s a workplace, a political party or an online community.

Although it involves much sadder circumstances, I’m also thinking of Maureen Woods this week.  I was first introduced to Maureen when she was a guest lecturer in an Advocacy Course I took with Wendy Newman while completing my MLIS.  In fact, Maureen’s work on The Alberta Library provided much of the background for my major project in that course – a proposal for an Ontario-wide library card.

After a long and very successful career in libraries across western Canada – most recently as Executive Director of the province-wide SILS public library consortium, Maureen passed away after a battle with cancer.

Reading the tributes to Maureen on Punch Jackson’s blog  and knowing she’d just been chosen for the 2013 Frances Morrison Award, made me realise that whatever you do in your career and wherever it takes you – whether in libraries in multiple provinces or a single small town hospital in Saskatchewan – you know you’ve made a successful contribution when your colleagues recognize your work and your legacy.

Congratulations mom – I’m proud of you!

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