Whenever I ask a group of children to name their favorite animals, at least one child will answer, “dinosaur.” Depending on the age of the child, I can either secure an explanation from him or her, or not.

Most of the time, kids say they don’t know why dinosaurs are their favorites. Maybe it’s because they are huge, ferocious creatures who aren’t afraid of any other animal, humans included. Or maybe it’s the mystique of adoring an animal they can’t see except in a cartoon or by skeleton or fabricated replica.

When they can explain the dinosaur fascination, students will say that it’s simply because they are big and scary, making them suitable for appreciation. If I remind them that we haven’t had real dinosaurs on earth for thousands (millions?) of years, they are unfazed, telling me that they were previously on earth and are therefore suitable to be favorites.

Why does this amuse me? The conservationist in me wishes that they loved rhinos or elephants, with the possibility that they will someday assist in protecting endangered species. Part of me wonders if they are presented with too much reality and they are responding by appreciating a vanished creature. Ultimately, I decide not to investigate.

Whatever the reason may be, I always validate and participate. Somehow it doesn’t seem fair to insist on choosing an animal that can be seen, touched or kept as a pet. And maybe we all need some dinosaurs in our lives and imaginations. They would be able to fight our battles, conquer our enemies and somehow consider each of us cherished, lifelong friends. Shalom.

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