Jane Goodall: 40 Years in My Heart

Today I ordered a copy of Jane Goodall: 50 Years at Gombe, the newest offering in Ms. Goodall’s long line of profoundly important books. That’s nice—you may be thinking—but is this morsel of minutia worthy of a blog post? Yes. Jane Goodall is worthy of a thousand blog posts. She is a living legend and my all-time hero.

That curious young Brit and her wild chimp companions were my earliest inspiration to carve a path into the hinterland of nature and science. I remember watching them on our living room TV, long blonde hair and black fur interacting amid the heady greens of Africa. How very, very far away they seemed. And yet something in their sheer existence rang a bell of possibility in my head.

No doubt a million little girls around the world thrilled to the idea of living like Jane Goodall in her jungle wonderland. Some of us still do. When asked as child who I most wanted to meet, I always named two people. Koko the gorilla (www.koko.org). And Jane Goodall. (Knowing this, I am sometimes astounded that I didn’t end up primatologist.)

My dream to gain a tête-à-tête with Jane stayed with me into adulthood. I used to check the JGI website www.janegoodall.org, hoping to find a lecture nearby. Then, in the summer of 2005, my dream came true—I met Jane Goodall.  Kevin and my mom joined me at a small retreat called “When Peace Comes”, hosted by Dr. Brian Luke Seaward. The now eminent United Nations Messenger of Peace was our keynote speaker.

When she stepped before our 100-member audience and told her secretary cum scientist story in that sincere milky-soft voice, you could have heard a pin drop. She was gentle yet riveting in the way that masters always are. Ghandhi. The Dalai Lama. Jane Goodall.

Despite her desire to spend life with the chimpanzee families in Gombe, Jane said the only way she felt she could truly help the apes of Africa was to touch the world with their story. Touch the world, she has. At 75, Jane continues to travel over 300 days a year, sharing her hope, empowering communities, one lecture—one book—at a time.

So I am excited to read Jane Goodall: 50 years at Gombe and celebrate this woman and her compelling devotion. If you read it, too, please write me and tell me what you think. For those of us who attempted to follow in her light, I suspect it will be more than an enchanting reminiscence of time and place. I believe it will reignite our commitment to make a difference. And for those young readers who have yet to find their life’s way, I trust the book will inspire and delight. Perhaps it will even ring a bell of possibility.

For the record… I’m still hoping to meet Koko someday. It could happen. After all, dreams sometimes come true.

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