I got hooked on feeding the birds in my backyard after visiting my friend, Maureen, in Michigan ten years ago. She lives 16 miles outside of the center of town in a rural area that’s a cross between suburbia and farm country. As you can imagine, there are lots of birds there – and she, as well as quite a few of her neighbors, feed them from backyard bird feeders. I spent a week there sitting on her back porch drinking cold beer and watching the comings and goings of the different feathered creatures that live in her neck of the woods and I came back to Kansas City and set up my own little avian feeding station.
That first winter brought with it my first run in with a flock of nasty European Starlings. Those big bad birds will come down in massive flocks, crowd out all the song birds, eat up all the good seed and suet and then take off again, leaving little behind for anyone who comes after them. I tried everything I could think of to keep them from getting to the seed and suet – but they are smart little S.O.B.’s and they figured out how to eat to their hearts content on my dime, while crowding out the bird population I was trying to attract. After two or three winters of this rude behavior, I almost stopped feeding the birds altogether because I couldn’t stand for those big nasty birds to get more than their fair share of the food.
Then, one day, I overheard a conversation at the store where I buy all my bird food and feeders. One man was going on and on about how much he hated the Common Grackle that overtook his feeders every spring, pushing out the songbirds and leaving a wake of destruction in their path. And then I heard one of the shop employees say, “That’s the way it is. If you want to feed the birds you love, you have to also feed the ones you don’t.”
A few days later I was having a discussion with someone I know about donating money to our local food bank and he came back at me saying how he refused to donate to charities because people who didn’t really need free food always find a way to get what they don’t deserve, and my mind immediately flashed back to the conversation I overheard in the bird store.
Yes, all of the charities, public assistance programs, welfare, etc. have some theft or fraud involved – it’s bound to happen because the human race is a messed up lot of people. But, for the 2-9% that walk away with free stuff they don’t need or deserve, the other 91-98% goes to those who, for whatever reason, can’t make ends meet, can’t find a new job, or don’t have family who can take them in. Bad stuff happens in this life and it doesn’t always happen to those who “deserve” it.
You will always be able to find a reason not to be generous, not to give something back, or not to be compassionate. But, perhaps the question you need to ask yourself is, “Are you really ready to let the other 98 song birds die because you were mad at the 2 that ate and never sang?”