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My name is Jennifer Richardson and I am a life-long central Illinois native. I took my first breath in Jarman Memorial Hospital in Tuscola, one of those small-town hospitals that have all but faded from the American landscape. The third of six children, I did not really understand the idyllic childhood and town we enjoyed until years later. We were generally safe to ride our bikes everywhere, we drank from garden hoses, played outside with the neighbor kids, and were loosely (and sometimes more closely) looked after by most of the adults we knew.

I hit the jackpot in the parent department; I probably will never have enough socks to fill their amazing shoes, but I aspire to be like them. My parents taught me to serve and I have tried to honor their example by finding places to give my time, resources and gifts. Years ago, I began to think about ways I could contribute something positive to my community and my world.

I have been asking my own children to give back to the world since they learned how to communicate. Our family has been honored to help others in a variety of ways. From visiting a homeless shelter to providing a meal for a family in need, we have known the joy of giving back.

I already knew I loved to write, and for as long as I could remember my head had always been spinning with ideas to share. A notion was born, I decided I would like to use my powers for good and make a bigger commitment to living how I talk. In my best dreams I hoped it would make a difference in someone’s life. I set aside the three novels I was working on and sat down to think about what I might want to share. What does the world need I asked myself?

Highlighting the best of humanity seemed an excellent choice. I wanted to write about this life we are all in, and how we experience it collectively, and the ways we are knit together with compassion, wisdom and kindness. Concepts gently bumped against one another until it all connected in my mind as human kindness.

Humankind-NESS. As in, what it should mean to live this life in close proximity to other human beings, and try to be a blessing as you go.

I thought of the literally thousands of times that people had been kind to me. Sharing their time and wisdom, and sometimes opening my eyes to things I needed to see; giving back to me in ways that show humankind in the most forgiving light. These were the ideas that I wanted to share. The HumankindNESS column was born. I knew I had found a place. A place to give from, a place to help others, and a way to connect.

My husband and I moved to Hoopeston this summer after accepting a job with the school district, and we are grateful to all who have given us a warm welcome. We are honored to have been adopted into the Cornjerker family. We look forward to getting to know you all better, and sharing our lives with the Hoopeston Chronicle readers.

For five years now the HumankindNESS column has presented not-so-common-anymore sense and reminded us of our shared humanity. I can genuinely say the kindness has come back to me in the greatest of ways. I also encourage you to find a place. Find a place to give of your talents and blessings. I promise you what comes back to you will overwhelm you with gratitude and joy.