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The Healing Powers of a Joyologist: Jodi Rae Ingstad Lights up Lives Through Kindness

"You don’t have to pay for kindness, yet it’s worth a billion dollars if you give it to somebody who needs it." (with The KIND Foundation from @KIND Snacks) #KINDPeople

Google the term joyologist, and you will find a simple, easy-to-digest definition like the following: “a person whose main purpose or job is to bring joy to others.” For Jodi Rae Ingstad, North Dakota-native and KIND People award recipient, it means so much more.

“A joyologist is a person who exudes joy in everything she does, mostly in a nursing home setting,” she says, speaking from her own perspective. Jodi Rae works at the Griggs County Care Center in Cooperstown, North Dakota, where her husband says her kindness has impacted the entire nursing home. For this reason, the administrator officially changed Jodi Rae’s job title to joyologist. “I am the girl who comes to bring happiness and light to the lives of the residents. This is their home and I get to come and brighten every moment. It’s my thing to make everyone happy, every minute of every day.”


Prior to working at the Care Center, Jodi Rae had a full life pursuing seemingly random gigs. Now, those gigs seem less random as they’ve led her to a place where she can help people who need it most. From odd jobs like middle school secretary to working at a fishing company on the Aleutian Islands, 850 miles off the coast of Anchorage, Alaska, to selling oil-cleanup equipment in Anchorage during the Exxon-Valdez spill, Jodi Rae has done her fair share of exploring to discover what brings her meaning. And after 50 years, Jodi Rae has discovered her purpose, and proudly embraces the fact that she is not like other people.

“I was born with an abnormal empathy trait,” she explains. “I’m overly empathetic by nature. It sometimes feels like a curse but it’s always a blessing. It feels like a curse because I feel too much for other people, but it’s a blessing in the end when I can take an action to do something. When I’m not at work, I’m out helping with anything and everything that I see needs to be done.”

As Jodi Rae’s husband Tim describes, “Jodi Rae looks like a woman but she’s really a beating heart of uncanny empathy.” She has helped a since-deceased-resident at a long-term care make friends in complete strangers, get yarn to pass her days knitting and feel like she wasn’t left to die unnoticed. She has also organized a benefit raising $6,000 in two hours to help a woman who had a cough that turned out to be metastatic cancer. The list goes on. In Tim’s words, “Whether helping the homeless on the rural streets of Fargo or delivering bags full of gifts to the elderly, she is a force who must act to appease her over-empathy. She sees a need and can’t stop until the need is met.”

Jodi Rae takes in the world around her, trying to understand what everyone is going through and how she can help. When asked if she’d describe herself as kind, she says that term doesn’t resonate. She simply is herself – it’s all she’s ever known. “I just try to do the right thing in every circumstance by doing good, being compassionate, showing empathy. Being aware of what humankind is going through and looking for the little things in people goes a long way,” she says. “Anybody can be kind,” she continues. “It doesn’t mean you have to give money.”

Jodi Rae speaks to the mutually-beneficial power of kindness: for the person receiving the kindness and the person performing the act. She has even found kindness to have healing powers.

“You don’t have to pay for kindness, yet it’s worth a billion dollars if you give it to somebody who needs it,” Jodi Rae says. “If you see something that looks bad… stop and do something about it. Don’t walk away.”

The KIND Foundation, a separate 501c3 established by KIND Snacks, recently sought nominations for KIND Peopleindividuals transforming their communities through kindness. Nearly 5,000 nominations were submitted, which proves kindness is thriving nationwide. Seven KIND People winners were selected, and The KIND Foundation is now distributing a total of $1.1MM in prizes to further their good work. These awardees are ordinary giants who have united their communities through selflessness and service. They inspire us to lead with empathy, forge an inclusive society, and live a life of purpose. Over the next few weeks, GOOD will be telling select winners’ stories in an effort to elevate kindness and its transformative power. Jodi Rae will use her $100,000 KIND People prize to adopt foster children and start the family she’s never had. She will raise them to be kind human beings and give them the opportunity to have a home full of love during the holidays next year.

Top photo: Jodi Rae, right, with a friend. Middle photo: The smile of a joyologist. Both photos by: Poon Watchara-Amphaiwan

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