Sometimes the best things in life are the unexpected. A gorgeous sunset at the end of a long day. A smile from a passerby on a rainy walk. For me, the lovely and unexpected came a couple weeks ago when I answered my library phone to hear the sweet voice of Mr. Ken Vogel. So many in our community remember when Ken and his wife Sally lived in Pullman. His Main Street clothing store was a veritable Pullman institution, and where I first met Ken. Ken, the dapper soul who welcomed me to his store with a basket of chocolates and an introduction to his gorgeous bookcases of vintage children’s books. We bonded immediately. Lucky, lucky me!
So I was very pleased to hear that he and Sally were soon headed to Pullman for a visit. We coordinated schedules and last week, in walked Ken with his characteristic smile, his warm demeanor and yes, a box of chocolates for yours truly. As noted, lucky, lucky me!
Our conversation ran the gamut as we got caught up on each other’s lives. I was heartened (but not surprised one bit) to hear that “what’s new” on Ken’s end was his involvement with children in his local school district – much smaller than Pullman’s, but with big needs. Enter Ken, off to make a difference with his beloved dictionary, some sweet treats and a heart of gold. He heads to classrooms of children who need assistance with learning to read as they also experience an adult caring deeply for and about them. That’s Ken – compassionate, committed and caring – lucky, lucky kids!
So while retirement for Ken means a bit more time for his all-things-train-passion, it also means he takes time to make a difference in the lives of others. You see, thankfully, some things don’t change. He impacted scores of children when he and Sally lived on the Palouse and he’s continuing to impact children’s lives in their new community as well. He’s the pied piper of “yes, let’s enjoy a great book and also remember our dictionary … because you never know when you’re going to come across a word you don’t know. And you have to have a dictionary!” Indeed, Ken!
And that brings me to a sweet and powerful story Ken shared with me about a little girl with whom he’s been working. Recently, she came up to him with great excitement and said, “Look what I have!” What was that treasured object she couldn’t wait to share with Ken? Her words - “My very own dictionary!” As I type her proud words, my eyes well up again – for her, for Ken, for all of us in this world we share. This big and small world where one person can and does make a difference. One book, one word, one dictionary at a time.
So, thank you, Ken for reminding me and everyone reading this column, that each of us has the capacity to make profound differences in the lives of others. You are a shining example of a caring, passionate reader with a heart as big as your personal library! All of us at the library take our hats off to you as we keep the dictionaries ever close – ready for little and big hands to check out and take home – so their lives have the opportunity to become richer, more meaningful and yes, sweeter.
Thank you, dear friend for the difference you continue to make in this world we share!