When Jane Goodall thinks of hope, she thinks about three trees that suffered terribly but survived near impossible odds.
Goodall is best known for her study of the social and family life of chimpanzees. At first, she thought they were kinder than humans until she discovered that they can be aggressive and violent. She saw some females kill the young of other females in their group to maintain their dominance.
In spite of all the violence, prejudice, greed and racism in the world, Goodall has never given up on hope. She and Douglas Abrams with Gail Hudson wrote about hope in The Book of Hope: A Survival Guide for Trying Times. An article about the book appeared in the March/April 2022 issue of Reader's Digest.
Goodall calls hope a crucial survival trait. When she thinks about hope, she remembers meeting two trees that survived impossible odds.
She was in New York City on Sept. 11, 2001, when terrorists killed so many people. Ten years later, she met a Callery pear tree that was at the site of the twin towers when they collapsed on 9/11. It was discovered one month after the event. The tree had been crushed between two blocks of cement.
Only half of the trunk remained, and it was charred black. Its roots were broken, and there was only one living branch. Rebecca Clough, the woman who found it, pleaded for the tree to be given a chance. It found a home in a Bronx nursery, where, over time and with much effort, it was nourished back to health. Once it was strong enough, the tree was transplanted in the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, where every spring its bright blossoms move people to tears.
Goodall met another amazing tree in Nagasaki, Japan. It is one of two 500-year-old camphor trees that survived after the second atomic bomb was dropped at the end of World War II. In the temperature as hot as the sun produced by the nuclear explosion, nothing was expected to survive. But somehow these two trees clung to life.
They were mutilated. Only the lower halves of the trunks were there. Most of the branches were gone, and no leaves remained. People took Goodall to see one of those trees. It's now quite large. Through many cracks in the trunk, visitors can see that it's all black inside. Even so, every spring the tree sprouts new leaves.
If those trees could survive such brutality, then there is hope for all of us, Goodall believes. That's one reason why she participated in the 2021 United Nations International Day of Peace in New York City.
Each year the UN International Day of Peace is observed around the world on Sept. 21. The United Nations calls on everyone to lay down their weapons on that day and reaffirm their commitment to live in harmony. Theme for the 2022 UN International Day of Peace is "End Racism. Build Peace."
For Goodall, the Survivor Tree and the two camphor trees represent the hope that world peace is possible.