Dr. Jane Goodall

Appears as a contributor in the bestseller 'Me to WE'
Dr. Jane Goodall
Jane spent 60 years studying chimpanzees from the age of 26
Dr. Goodall is a UN messenger for peace
Jane had no formal scientific training when she undertook her research

Dr. Jane Goodall's Contribution from 'Me to WE'

Sometimes I think, How did the little girl who was born in England to a family with very little money come to be traveling around the world doing such fulfilling work? When I do, it makes me think of a fable my mother used to read to me and my sister when we were little, about the birds coming together to have a competition to see who could fly the highest. The eagle is sure he will win and majestically, with those great, strong wings, he flies higher and higher. Gradually the other birds get tired and start drifting back to the ground. Finally, even the eagle can go no higher, but that's all right, because he looks down and sees all the other birds below him. At least that's what he chinks, but hiding in the feathers on his back is a little wren, and she takes off and flies highest of all.

I love this story because it is very symbolic for me. If we think of our life as an effort to fly always just a little bit higher and reach a goal that's just a little bit beyond our reach, we are faced with a question: How high can any of us go by ourselves? We all need our own eagle, a special life mentor, and when I look back and think of all the people who have helped me on my wren's flight, I think of my mother most of all. My whole life history is punctuated by fond recollections of her guiding hand.

As a child, I grew up in a family of women (my father was off fighting in World War II), with my mother and her two sisters, my grandmother, and my sister. My bold passion for animals was supported by my mother. It was a testament to her gentle and accepting character that she didn't freak out even when I took a whole handful of earthworms to bed with me. She just gently said, "Jane, if you leave them here, they'll die. They need the earth."

So, only one and a half, I toddled back with them into the garden. She supported so many childhood escapades to do with animals. So it was natural that when I read Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan of the Apes, fell in love with Tarzan, and then was extremely jealous of Tarzan's Jane, my mother was one of the few people to encourage me to follow my ridiculous dream of going to Africa to live with animals. Everyone else laughed at me, but she said, "Jane, if you really want something and work hard and you take advantage of opportunity and you never, ever give up, you will find a way.”

And when I left school--I didn't go to university because we couldn't afford it – I did her bidding, which was to become a secretary so I could get a job in Africa.

Almost by miracle, my mother's wisdom proved true. Through a series of serendipitous events, I met Louis Leakey, the renowned archeologist, and was offered an amazing opportunity to go to Tanzania's Gombe National Park on the romantic-sounding shores of Lake Tanganyika. My mission was to try to learn about chimpanzees, but there were problems – most of all that I was a female. Back then, in 1957, a female going to live on her own in the African bush was unthinkable. The British government, which ruled Tanzania at the time, proved obstinate. It denied permission for two to three months, but finally it said, "Well, all right, but she must have a companion.”

So who volunteered to come? My mother, of course. So when I started my work in Tanzania, my remarkable mother was there for me when I got done in the evening. Although I loved it, those early days in the forest, when the chimpanzees would run away from me, were frustrating beyond belief. If I failed, I knew that everyone would say, "We told you so!"

So I was becoming increasingly agitated, and having my mother there to give me support and reassure me was great. But even more than that, my mother, by simply being herself, established a wonderful relationship with all the local people. She started a little clinic, handed out aspirins, band-aids, and things of that sort, like a nurse or doctor, though She wasn't one. The same kindness that she showed to me when I was a little girl, she showed to others. And in the months, years, and decades to follow, even after my mother passed away. I formed many trusting friendships because of her gentle and generous ways. Even today, I still feel her very much around me, and throughout my entire life she was my greatest inspiration and support.

Me to WE
Me to We is a New York Times bestseller that provides a tangible guide to doing good. The book puts forward an approach to life that leads us to recognize what is truly valuable when making decisions, defining our goals and contemplating the legacy we want to leave. It includes contributions by individuals who have followed the Me to We philosophy, including Oprah Winfrey, Queen Noor and Archbishop Desmond Tutu. Above all, it creates new ways of measuring happiness, meaning and success in our lives and makes sure these elusive goals are attainable at last.
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