Do You Recognize This Guy?

As a child of the 60’s this little guy was a big part of my life. He has become a cultural icon and always held a special place in my heart. I loved watching he and Pokey go on adventures as a kid. I made sure my son and daughter had their own Gumby and Pokey to play with when they were little.

Gumby was birthed in 1956 by a man names Art Clokey. He wanted to create a character that would, “Love all children through television.” The stories were created from the bedtime stories Art told his children when they were growing up. Little did he know what lay ahead for this little green piece of clay.

What’s he doing on my desk?

Years ago I worked with a consultant who had adopted Gumby as a personal mascot during an outreach trip to Africa. His team leader gave him a pocket size Gumby to remind him of the importance of remaining flexible when he encountered a variety cultural differences.

I’m a child at heart and his story resonated with me at a visceral level. It was only natural that I, too, adopted this adorable green claymation as my mascot. At the time I was working at a large agency in Portland, Oregon helping those experiencing homelessness and in our residential recovery program. Today he sits on my desk, reminding me of many things, including the value of remaining flexible, especially working in the nonprofit field.

Some things Gumby reminds me to do and be:

The Value of Flexibility

If you’ve watched any of the Adventures of Gumby and Pokey you know he rarely panics. Instead, he creatively looks for ways to overcome any barrier in front of him. As each story unfolds Gumby takes risks, willing to do whatever it will take to overcome his dilemma. Even when things go horribly wrong, he “takes the hit,” learns from it, and keeps on going. He never gives up.

The Value of What’s Most Important

Reading about the birth of Gumby by Art Clokey, I was touched by the similarity to many of my own core values:

  • The power of unconditional love.
  • The beauty in the laughter of children. (There’s nothing as contagious as the belly laugh of a child).
  • Deep love for all children. They’re the next generation. It’s our role, a key purpose for each of us as adults to protect, to nurture, to inspire, and to empower each one of them to be who they are created to be.
The Value of Living an Adventurous Life

Gumby is fearless. In this pilot episode he jumps in a space ship and heads to the moon where he faces a multitude of dangerous situations. His presence on my desk reminds me every day that life is an adventure we are meant to experience on a multitude of levels.

What Does All This Have to do With Nonprofits?

If you work or volunteer with a nonprofit you are fully aware of the multitude of things that come our way on any given day. Struggles to raise the funds necessary to continue the work we do; leading a team; maintaining and sharing the vision and passion for the field you are called to be in. The list goes on.

Keeping Gumby on my desk brings a smile to my face when the work feels overwhelming; when I wonder if I can do this another day. He reminds me to bend when needed, show love to all, and live the adventure in front of me.

Want to hear more?

I recently sat down with my friend and colleague, Nathan Webster of NW & Associates, LLC, to talk about my relationship with Gumby on his podcast, Mr. Social Entrepreneur. I think you’ll enjoy the conversation as much as we did!

What does Gumby remind you to do and be? I’d love to hear from you!

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