By Jennifer Richardson
Hello! For many of you this will be the first time you have read my column. I am excited to introduce myself as a regular contributor to your paper. I am a happily married mother of three grown daughters (and as of last week, one son-in-law!), who believes we are all in this together, and that kindness is amazingly the least and the most we can do with the time we have been given.
My name is Jennifer Richardson, and I am a life-long Illinois native, and I am from the town of Tuscola. I took my first breath in the Sarah A. Jarman Memorial Hospital in Tuscola. Some of you will remember it as one of those small-town hospitals that have all but faded from the American landscape.
The third of six children born to Cecil and Nancy Smith, 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 graduated from Tuscola High School in the class of 1988 alongside some truly wonderful people.
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 a portion of what we have been given.
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. We certainly already had enough sources of gritty reality and negative views; the world did not need one more ounce of that.
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, wisdom, and resources with me–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 in my soul I had found a place. A place to give from, a place to help others, and a way to offer something good from my own blessings. The column offers not-so-common-anymore sense and reminds us of our shared humanity.
It has offered me a way to give, and I can genuinely say the kindness has come back to me in the greatest of ways. I look forward to getting to know you all better, and sharing my life with The Tuscola Journal readers
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.