TO AUDREY, WITH GRATITUDE

By Harlan Garbell

I first met Audrey Kingstrom at a bar in Uptown. (No, it’s not what you may be thinking.) Audrey was hosting a happy hour Meetup for Humanists of Minnesota and I overcame my inertia to go. The Humanists seemed like an interesting group and the venue wasn’t far from where I live. 

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I didn’t talk with her much that evening, but I enjoyed the event and came back again a couple of months later. Soon, I went regularly. The more I went, the more I got to know Audrey, and the more I realized what a unique individual she is. Very animated, bright, articulate, and committed to the ideals of humanism. By nature I am very skeptical of any “ism,” as well as any individual who expounds on that “ism.” But eventually she won me over with her enthusiasm, honesty, and patience — just as she has won over many others. She is sui generis, loosely translated as “one of a kind.”

As those who have worked with her know, Audrey has a vision of the potential for the humanist movement in our society. Others may have a similar vision, but what sets Audrey apart is her determination to make this potential a reality. She is indefatigable. Audrey will not only organize an event but will, in any weather, be the first person on the scene and the last one to leave. Perhaps because she grew up on a farm, she has an innate understanding of that biblical proverb “you reap what you sow.”* The humanist movement will only grow if people work to make it happen. She knows this and that is her message to the rest of us. 

I would not be in HumanistsMN if not for Audrey. So I am grateful to her for ushering me into this organization where I have met so many friends and had a chance to do so many meaningful things. Now, as her successor as president, I have the opportunity to pay her back by maintaining the same vision for the organization’s future that she had. I also hope to work as hard as she did, though I doubt anyone could.

Yes, some things will change, as they would with any new president and board. But the things Audrey is most passionate about, such as fostering a strong humanist community and advocating for social justice, are things I fully intend to promote during my term. 

So thank you, Audrey. I wouldn’t be writing this column if I had not met you.

*Galatians 6:7- Author’s note: wisdom comes from many sources.

Harlan Garbell is president of HumanistsMN. Audrey Kingstrom stepped down in May after five years as president to comply with our bylaws. She will continue serving the chapter as program coordinator.