This I Believe

Jannette - New York, New York
Entered on April 24, 2007

I believe in my mother’s lessons about overcoming fear in order to fulfill my life dreams.

My mother was 20 when I was born, and two years later my sister was born. When I was 7 years old, she found the strength to leave her husband, her high school sweetheart who had begun having affairs and failed to support his family. She worked hard to provide a safe and loving home for my sister, me, and a variety of animals who wound up as part of our family: a couple of rescued dogs, a cat or two, even some bunnies, mice, and hamsters. My mother raised me to treat animals with the same consideration that I would want for myself.

When I was 12 years old, my life changed forever when one of my teachers showed our class a film about baby harp seals who were being skinned on the ice in Canada. (Thirty years later, it’s even more sickening to know that this barbaric slaughter continues, even at this very moment as I write this.) I was traumatized by what I’d learned and knew that I had to do something to help stop it.

With encouragement from my mother, I immediately got to work. I tracked down an international petition, collected signatures, and put up a display in my school library. The following year, I started an animal rights club at school, and I went door-to-door in my neighborhood with information about animals. When I was required to create a newspaper for a class project, I made one that was only about animal issues. At that young age, with my mother as my role model, I found the strength to use my voice for those who have no voice: animals. It was an event that would define the rest of my life.

I went on to volunteer and work for humane societies and animal protection groups. For the past 10 years, I’ve worked for the world’s largest animal rights organization, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA). Part of my job is to speak up for animals in ways that require me to step outside my comfort zone, and I’ve learned how effective we can be when we let go of silly fears. I am proud to be part of an innovative, tireless group of caring people who are making a more compassionate world for all.

I often say that I feel lucky because I have a career doing what I love?helping to stop animal suffering. Recently, I realized that it really has nothing to do with luck: I have a strong mother who taught me to be fearless in doing whatever I believe in.

My mother installed in me the belief that I have the ability to make a difference for others. This Mother’s Day, I will honor her by making a donation to help stop the slaughtering of seals.