December 25, 2020 by kittynh
(From a letter I sent Jose, after Randi’s death. I’ve not even edited it yet. I’m only at the point of sharing quickly written reflections, of a personal grief and a personal growth)
Randi for so many of us, was like coming home. Coming home to our real family.
I’ll share my “coming home” story.
When I was in high school, many of my friends became involved in the Evangelical movement. These groups, would go to high schools and indoctrinate students into the Evangelical movement. Their methods were to target students that had no religious background in their families, and offer the usual enticement of any group, friendship and a sense of belonging.
I had grown up in a very Liberal Episcopalian church, and felt put off and worried about a group that needed me to be “born again” to belong. My friends drifted away from me, as I refused to fake being “born again”, and suggested that in my case perhaps I was meant not to be part of the chosen.
I was lonely, and one day in the library, I came across a quote by Julian Wolfe. He had written “Those who do not believe in falsehoods, have no need to fear the truth.”
He had expressed my feelings exactly. I didn’t want to believe because it would make life easier for myself. I understood that no amount of believing can make a falsehood true. If it meant loneliness, and finding new friends, so be it.
I was going through a rough time after the early death of my best friend. My brother sent me Randi’s “The Faith Healers”. Little did I know that gift was far more than just a book.
I read that book, and it changed not only my life, but the life of my entire family. At first I could not believe there was a man, and his friends, who were fighting against those promising falsehoods. I also learned that behind most falsehoods, that stand despite the evidence, is a greedy person. This meant a lot to me as I falsely believed that perhaps I could reach my best friend in the afterlife through some psychic medium.
I had to learn that no matter what I would always seek the truth, not what I wanted to be the truth. Randi showed me in “The Faith Healers” that fooling people was not kind, and fooling yourself was even more unkind. He never blamed those that fell for the bait. My friends wanted to belong to a fun group in high school. Those that believed in faith healing, also had a need that a greedy person was willing to fill with lies.
The best part for myself was that there was an organization, that supporting exposing these lies and helping those manipulated by these charlatans. I knew, I had found new friends, and a new home.
I attended the first TAM (The Amazing Meeting) in Florida, and was incredibly happy. I still remember laughing in the elevator with other attendees, and a person on the elevator asked if we were all at the “Skeptic conference”. We all nodded and smiled and she said “But I thought skeptics were all supposed to be grumpy and angry.”
The reason we were all smiling and laughing was that we had all met Randi. Randi set an example. He listened to those truly fooled by a false belief. Dowsing was one of the more popular misconceptions. But if you were fooling other people, and Randi knew it, he was far from nice.
I learned not to write off believers en mass. I instead kept sympathy and hope for the majority of those fooled and anger and intelligent argument for the people involved at the top. Those that knew the truth and didn’t care.
This could be all I would write about Randi, my children and husband all learned to love this man. He was the best example for my children, and both have grown up to dedicate their lives to science and truth. I know that without Randi, my daughter would never have gone to MIT to get her PhD, and now uses her education to help control global warming. My younger daughter thought of Randi as a grandfather. She would never have been arrested at a Black Lives Matter rally in Boston if not for her dedication to the truth which she learned from Randi.
There is one part of Randi though that I have noticed more since his death. Of course my family knew this side of Randi. But I was amazed (yes I’ll use that word) at the stories that poured out from others about his generosity and kindness.
Randi was a celebrity that never acted like a celebrity. At the TAM conferences, I remember one well known Skeptic telling the audience that he would only sign books during the appropriate book signing times. Randi spoke soon after and was “Don’t stand back, come up to me and talk! I want to meet each and every one of you.” He meant it. He did it.
Randi had my daughter work twice for him as a volunteer intern. Jose and Randi and Linda took good care of my daughter. The thing that Evelyn expressed every time she called home was how delightful it was working for Randi. There were possums in the ceiling of the JREF. There were people just stopping by, some expecting to leave with a million dollar check. They may not have left with the money, but they left feeling they had been heard. Randi insisted they be treated well. My daughter, and our entire family, learned that kindness should be our default behavior. Be kind whenever possible.
The stories of Randi’s kindness are almost countless. I asked him to write the introduction to my children’s book, and Jose also, and they both said “Yes”. Since then I have had many people inquire “How did you get James Randi and his partner to write introductions to your book?” My reply is always “I just asked.” Their reply is “But, he’s so important. It’s a nice book, but this is James Randi!”
When Randi wrote letters for my elder daughter to get into the college and later university of her dreams, he wrote the letters. She just asked. We are all so grateful as Randi is held in great respect by the best colleges and universities in the world. His letter means something to them.
When my friend Mikki lost her husband, her first excursion out was to a TAM. It was my honor to share a room with her at the hotel. When we went down the first morning, Randi was there. I brought Mikki over, Randi was in a large group but he took her aside, sat down with her, and they
spoke. It was just the two of them. Mikki was also coming home. She knew this was a safe place to be for her first outing as a young widow.
Story after story has been shared of “Randi did this for me.” Everyone telling their story felt they needed to share what this great man had done for them.
There is a Christian story about the “Warm Fuzzies” they tell children. The story is that a warm fuzzy is something you do for someone else that makes both of you feel good. It’s something that is needed, given with no expectation of repayment. The story goes that one day people began to hoard warm fuzzies, as they were sure they would run out of them if they kept handing them out to just anyone. Only a few people still handed out warm fuzzies, and were the object of derision as they were just wasting all their warm fuzzies. The moral of the story was that there is an infinite number of warm fuzzies.
It was when I met and came to know Randi and Jose that I finally met people that gave of themselves as if they would never run out of goodness to give and share. They always tried to say “Yes”, and said “Yes” far more often than they said “No.” They did things for people without their even asking. Some of the most special memories I will have for life, are centered around Randi and Jose. The best gift they gave my family, was the example to remember to try to be kind as often as possible.
I still have so much of my Skeptic family as dear friends. These are friendships built on truth and kindness. The strength of those friendships, built on reality and laughter, I never worry about.
But I will so miss Randi. The kind of missing that hurts your heart. We also so love Jose, especially my husband who speaks of his bravery and his art, often. He is family, and always will be.
We have a new generation in our family. A young grandson named Caspian, and he will grow up with Randi as family. He will be kind, honest and have no time for those fooling others out of greed for power and money. Thank you Jose for sharing your partner with us, for being so generous with your time also.
Randi, and Jose, taught us all we have a home, with each other.