As a boy, I was fascinated by the story of how in 1923 Roy Chapman Andrews discovered the first known dinosaur eggs. They belonged to Protoceratops, a species of small horned dinosaur, and she had laid them in the Gobi Desert of Mongolia millions of years before.

So when some years ago I found a wonderfully expressive sculpture of a hatching Protoceratops, I was really excited. Right now, the piece is on my desk, where I can see it every day, and be inspired and filled with hope.

How? The little creature is posed just emerging from the shell, claws gripping the leathery exterior, pushing out into a world that is hostile and dangerous. But there is a look of determination on the little face. Even though she weighs only about as much as a good-sized steak (8 ounces), this animal is not going to let size stop her. The eyes even say “Don’t mess with me!”

As a campus minister, I work with the age group (18-25) Dr. Jeffrey Arnett has called “emerging adults.” (See and his book Emerging Adults: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties). I believe they are as determined to make it as that little dinosaur hatching from the egg. The world is more hostile and insecure now than I can remember, and I’m over half a century old. Yet the students I know keep on pursuing their dreams, falling in love, refusing to yield to pressure to conform, living according to positive values. They reach out to others who are in need, whether their friends across the hall who need a shoulder to cry on or complete strangers on the Mississippi coast whose homes and lives were devastated by Katrina.

I’m inspired and filled with hope when I look at that little dinosaur sculpture because the little creature reminds me of others emerging into the world. Because of them, when I am tempted to be cynical and jaded about the possibilities for making a difference in the world, I will not give in to negativity, but rather rejoice and thank God for the opportunity to know and work with this generation.

© 2006 by Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.