In loving memory of former Community Foundation Board
Member and President, Ross Hoffman. Servant Leader,
difference-maker, corny joke teller, and friend.
So, why do gorillas have large nostrils? Because they have large fingers. Ba-da-bah! That was the joke that Ross Hoffman, former Community Foundation Board Member and President, told over and over for the last ten years. He was quirky like that. Laughed at his own jokes. Even the ones he told countless times for years. He always had a welcoming smile on his face; but, typically one that would make you wonder what big idea was churning in his brain at that very minute. He was always envisioning, inventing, implementing. Always developing, creating, difference-making. Ross was a verb. A verb dressed up as a middle-aged man.
I worked with Ross on countless community projects and a small handful of world-changing endeavors at College Wesleyan Church. If a project had The Big Mo (momentum), you’d likely find him smack dab in the middle of it. It was one evening after a long day’s work that several people gathered at a meeting to do some of that verbing. To be honest, I can’t even recall exactly what meeting it was…there were so many. Foundation meetings. Church meetings. Change the universe meetings. But, this I do remember. After the meeting, several pods of people stayed after brainstorming other ideas, creating synergy, and listing who else should be involved to make the impact even bigger than even our minds could comprehend. It was moments like that where you could see that memorable smile appear on his face and in his eyes, when he said, “You know how I know when something is really going to work? How I know when something huge is about to happen? It’s when people stay after the meeting talking about it longer than the actual meeting.” Brilliant. And true.
Ross knew that ideas and money and time were nothing without people using them to help others. Investing them wisely. And he knew that lots of people with ideas, didn’t have money. Or people with money, didn’t have time. Or people with time, didn’t have money or ideas. He really understood, as anyone involved in something truly bigger than themselves does, that it takes all kinds of kinds. A royal flush always beats two of a kind. But, not without a little verbing.
At his funeral, they played a video of Ross that we had viewed at College Church some time ago. In his own words, he reflected on a trip he took to Africa where he first felt like he was really involved in making a difference. Where he first saw his actions directly making life better for others. He was part of a jubilant African celebration rejoicing in the completion of a new well that Ross had helped make a reality. The joy he witnessed that day, the pure delight he saw on their faces and in their eyes was all he needed to realize that (a) he could make a difference and (b) it was his responsibility to make a difference.
Ross isn’t here to do the heavy lifting for us anymore. But he left us with a charge…to know that we can impact our community (and the world) positively, and to actively take that responsibility seriously. Nine years of dedicated service on the Community Foundation board shows that Ross knew that giving through the Foundation was a great way to start locally.
I don’t know about you, but the example Ross set has inspired me. Inspired me to be a better person. And definitely inspired me to be a better comedian. ;)