Feeding the Birds

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We are out of temporary housing and have been living in our very ‘own’ apartment for about two weeks, now. The building is mere feet from the Grand Canal, which I assume gets the name from the huge number of swans, seagulls, ducks, and other things that hang around in the water. I brought a chunk of dried out bread with me the last time Shane and I went out wandering and I fed it to the gathered birds. It was pretty scary, actually. They were all really excited about my dry bread, and nobody felt shy about coming up and getting a taste of the crumby delicacy. I have to say I felt bad when I was in the midst of it all. I mean, part of it was because I didn’t want one bird to get more just because he was pushy. I suppose that’s the way evolution works. I also felt like I shouldn’t be interfering with their life system. However, I suppose that’s already completely blown apart and they know they can get good grub by hanging around all winter. Shane heard from someone at work that the swans move elsewhere in the warmer months, because they can find more food in the wild.

I’m not going to feed them anymore, I guess. It just feels too sad and meddling. This sort of reminds me of the way I feel about panhandlers, of which there are many on the sidewalks. Nearly every day I see men, women, people with kids, mostly youngish people, asking for change. I’m a little surprised how youthful most of them are. I still feel conflicted about the panhandling thing. I mean, I definitely want to do what I can to assist a fellow in need. There’s no question about that. I would hope that if I was in that place I would be show compassion and generosity. But then, I always wonder about whether it actually helps. Am I encouraging someone to continue scraping along because it’s good enough? Am I helping them maintain a mindset of helplessness? Maybe they are actually making a good living and just playing on my guilt or feeding some sort of addictive illness. Is it my place to judge that? No. I’m sure of that. I make my own choices about the ways I maneuver my life, shouldn’t I allow the same to others? Yes. But then, I have some serious advantages over many people. So far, I’ve led a ridiculously privileged life with everything I could possibly need and people to love and support me.

I still don’t feel settled about this question. But I guess until I work out something more concrete, I will continue giving my loose change to those who ask, and I’ll stop feeding the birds.    

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2 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    kimmykokonut said,

    I, too feel the same as you do about birds and panhandlers. I fed birds as a kid but don’t do it anymore. I think, though if they are city fowl they are already accustomed to this lifestyle and are going to pass it on to their children…I wonder if their instincts would come back to go find bugs and stuff to eat? I used to give money to panhandlers but I can’t do it anymore. I know some people need help, but there are plenty out there who abuse the system and people’s generosity and use the money in ways that is not hellpigng them to become more self-reliant. I now try to give my time instead of money, as there are so many soup kitchens everywhere and social service programs who exist to help in a positive way. But I agree, it is sad and hard and we were born into such privilege.

  2. 2

    Vicki Jensen said,

    Hi from North Carolina,

    I have a pond behind my home with returning flock of geese and mallards. My neighbor fed them corn for many years and after she moved they continue to return each year. Not because of the food, because there is no more. I think the natural food source is there and they have no survival issues. With regard to panhandlers. I pay them no mind. They are everywhere and are now required to have a license in our state. The cops keep them moving around and oddly they disappear when the weather turns cold. Perhaps, they migrate with the birds.


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