The face of hope

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Jo-Anne McArthur

Last night, Jo-Anne McArthur stayed at our place while she was giving a talk in my hometown, Ghent. For those who don’t know her, Jo-Anne is an award-winning photojournalist and author, who has been documenting the plight of animals on all seven continents for a decade. She’s the author of the book We Animals and the movie The Ghosts in our Machine is about her work.

I had met Jo-Anne a couple of times but it was good to spend a bit more time with her. Those who have met her will know that she’s one of the warmest people you can hope to encounter, and one thing struck me. Having gone around the world to document animal abuse on camera, you could arguably say that few people have seen more animal misery than her from close by. Yet at the same time, Jo-Anne has the most wonderful smile in the world and her face exudes happiness.

After her talk, someone asked her the question how she deals with all the misery, and Jo-Anne answered that she had been through some bad periods, but that she had learned to focus on the positive and to choose hope again and again.

It reminded me of this old Cherokee legend that I find very beautiful and inspiring:

An old Cherokee is teaching his grandson about life. “A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves. One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.” He continued, “The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. The same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf will win?”

The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

We each have the power, or at least can learn, to focus on the positive, the beautiful, the good. And if we want, we can find it, at the very least in small amounts, everywhere, at every moment.

Focussing on the positive helps us continue our work for a long time, and thus, helps the animals.

PS: read more in this interview with Jo-Anne.

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(c) Jo-Anne McArthur/WeAnimals

7 thoughts on “The face of hope

  1. Thanks so much for featuring Jo-Anne McArthur, Tobias. She is amazing…a true hero and voice for the animals. I’m also so thankful to Jo-Anne for openly sharing her story with us, and how she’s dealt & struggled with burnout, compassion fatigue & trauma.

    For anybody who’s interested in finding out more about how Jo-Anne deals with all the misery and how she chooses to focus on the positive, please definitely check out this interview with her. It’s been a wonderful source of inspiration for me since I was lucky enough to run across it last year.
    http://www.theghostsinourmachine.com/interview-with-we-animals/

    I’ve heard that Cherokee legend in the past, but it’s always inspiring to come across it and to be reminded of the good that exists and how we can help create it and the world we wish to see. Just as we are people who are moral & careful about what goes into our stomachs, we should do the same for our minds. 🙂

  2. This is beautiful – and I couldn’t agree more about your description of Jo-Anne. She is without a doubt, one of the “warmest people you can hope to encounter.” She exudes kindness and compassion – such a great ambassador for the animals.

  3. Jo is precious. A few days ago I was getting angry and depressed with recenf FB feeds on animal exploitation. Then I saw her post about a meeting proposing the end of fur farming in the EU. Hope and optimism was restored! BTW, this is a very good blog too, with lots of good insights for activists. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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