We all have heard the story about the difference between the egg and the bacon on your breakfast plate: The chicken participated, but the pig was committed.
I have never met another volunteer like Ken Whipple in my 28 years of working on a social mission. Ken, at age 77, seems 20 years his junior in both mind and body. He has an incredible curiosity, seeking knowledge like a puzzle master looking for the unique shape to complete the jigsaw. He has an easy style to him that is gracious but focused; intentional, not rigid; grounded and able to see the whole picture. He gets energy from having strong minds and talent in the room to advance difficult and complex work. But there is one thing that particularly stands out about Ken: his enthusiasm.
I recently told my wife that the first 50 years of my life were geared toward being a responsible adult who worked on serious issues. Hence, I am a serious guy. My goal for the next 50 years (God willing) is to bring more childlike qualities back into my life. Face serious issues, yes, but do it with qualities you see more in children: joy, laughter, play, and risk. When I watch Ken, I see a master at work, painting upon life’s canvas.
“I always wanted a logo with a lightning bolt in it,” Ken Whipple said to me. We were discussing the Agenda Results Committee (ARC) that Ken is chairing for the United Way. This group of volunteers works to bring our mission to life in the fullest and most complete manner.
Ken asked that T-shirts be made up for the committee that would include the new ARC logo and a newly adopted quote from Martin Luther King Jr.
“The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice.“
The T-shirts were a hit, so next came the baseball caps. We kidded about having an ARC tattoo to demonstrate a real commitment. Later, as we gathered for an early morning meeting, there was Ken with his sleeve rolled up getting his tattoo (albeit temporary) placed upon his arm. Then at the close of the meeting, Ken rolled up his sleeve, turned to the group, and with a big smile showed off his new tattoo. He made sure everyone left the room with their own tattoo of a lightning bolt as well. The work the group engages in is difficult, but having fun along the way has become a requirement, thanks to Ken. He naturally brings that to the table.
I remember visiting Ken at his home and walking into his study. Up on the wall he had a painting of a shore with waves rolling in and several people working to push a boat against the wind and water out to sea. Ken said, “You know what I like about that painting? It shows it takes everyone working together to make something happen.”
Our mission is fundamentally about that: getting everyone working together to make progress on issues we all care about. In order to do that, you need leaders who believe and who have the knack to bring others along. Ken is an incredibly talented human being who is using his gifts to make a community better. With him, I am confident great progress will continue to be made.
This past Saturday I received an email titled, “All in for ARC or what?” Below is the picture that accompanied the email. Clearly, Ken isn’t the Chicken on the plate.