Tammy Crabtree’s name came to my mind the moment I, along with other full-time aha! Process consultants, was invited to record a happy holidays message for followers of Ruby Payne’s work. After all, the portion of the People Like Us video that features Tammy and her two sons has been identified repeatedly as the “most endearing” segment in the PBS episode, and it illustrates many key points from many of Ruby Payne’s works.

I was hooked on the idea of including Tammy in my message. Luckily, I was scheduled to present for a school district in Ohio two days before our videos were due, and Waverly, Tammy’s hometown, was only a couple hours’ drive from the route I would be taking. So I called Burger King and asked if Tammy still worked there. “Yes,” I was told.

The morning I drove into Ohio (COVID-19 had already put a stop to my flying), I called Burger King again and asked if Tammy was working that day. “Yes, she is,” I was told. I was nervous, still afraid this would not work out. I was told I could meet Tammy during her break at noon.

Burger King was closed to all but drive-through orders. Upon arrival I called again and was told that Tammy was busy, but if I could wait an hour for lunchtime traffic to slow down, I could talk to her at 1 p.m. outside the building. I drove around Waverly. When I pulled back into the Burger King parking lot, I saw Tammy standing with a colleague at the entrance door. Rain was pouring down. Tammy was wearing her pandemic mask, but I could tell she was smiling as her eyes searched the passengers in the cars that drove by. I waved. Tammy pointed to herself and asked, “Do you want to see me?”

“Yes,” I nodded.

When I parked my car and walked up to Tammy, I felt a very kind, welcoming presence. We introduced ourselves and chatted. Tammy told me that her oldest son, Matt, is living in Springfield, Ohio, and doing well. Her face lit up when she talked about him. Matt has four children and one grandchild.

Tammy said she had moved out into the countryside, 21 miles from her job, but her younger son, Bo, is now her neighbor and provides transportation. He has lost his job due to the pandemic, and she hopes to get him a position at Burger King. Bo has four children and is trying to arrange for them to live with him. Tammy also has a daughter who is older than Matt and had already left home when People Like Us was filmed, and she has another child, younger than Bo.

After several minutes of chatting and shooting some video, one of Tammy’s colleagues joined us and whispered to Tammy that she was needed inside. I realized I had kept her too long. We exchanged contact information and said goodbye.

Tammy called me just before Christmas to wish me happy holidays. Her call did, indeed, create Christmas joy for me.