While looking through old photographs, I came across one that I had used for my Christmas card in 1994. My son William was two-years-old and in love with animals. He played with toy animals, we read stories about animals, and we visited animals at the Roger Williams Park Zoo all the time. In fact, for Christmas that year, we gave out gift certificates that read, “This certificate entitles you to a guided tour of Roger Williams Park Zoo. Your tour guide will be William.” At 27-months-old he knew the animal’s order of appearance at the zoo: ostrich, zebra, cheetah, bongo, elephant, giraffe…. He also knew many facts about each animal. “Giraffes have blue tongues, bongos have 11 white stripes on their backs, cheetahs are the fastest animal on the planets, etc.”
This year William is spending Christmas in Australia. He is a junior in college and attending University of Brisbane. His major is Evolutionary Biology—the study of animal behavior, their evolutionary development, ecosystems, and genetics. Last semester, William had the opportunity to take part in a field research study of gray kangaroos. He spent a week in gray kangaroo territory with two field research biologists and lots of kangaroos. The future biologist spent the first two days of the trip asking the researchers about their education, training, and field research. They were both encouraging and said they had started in their careers in much the same way William was starting. He felt excited, empowered, and absolutely in the right place. What a gift for a young man who took a big risk in traveling to the other side of the world in search of knowledge and adventure.
As I look at this old Christmas card and think about William in Australia, I smile at the thought that he has been preparing for this trip and these adventures for a long time. Merry Christmas William!