Helping Hand

Every evening at the same time, for about the past year, I put out 10 dishes of food and some broken up bread, for an assortment of wild friends that come by during the night.

It started when the last of our rescued possums died on us and it was our way of continuing an involvement in lending wildlife a helping hand.

Florida being Florida, the diversity of dinner guests has been quite staggering with Possums, Raccoons, Squirrels, Mice, Cardinals, Blue Jays, and some other birds that I haven’t quite figured out yet.

I lay out the spread at pretty much the same time each day and it has gotten to the point now that if I am late, the Cardinals and Blue Jays start screaming at me from the trees.

I’ve even been able to tell who is eating what, because they all have very different eating habits. Mice love the cereal, Raccoons go for the mix of cat food and pasta, and Possums eat everything (although they definitely have a preference for sweet things!)

I have witnessed them all standing side by side, possums, raccoons, birds, and squirrels (mice are a bit timid for large crowds), sharing food without fights. At times it feels like I am witnessing a Disney movie, first hand.

Last night, not even two minutes after I laid out the food, a Raccoon made a beeline for the macaroni/cat food mix and began to carefully pick out the noodles before anyone else got them. And standing guard immediately above her was her friend the Cardinal, making sure that she ate undisturbed.

Hope you like this little selection that I shot from the kitchen door.

It was immediately obvious to me that she was watching me set out the food and waiting impatiently for me to leave. And I could feel her presence in the bushes even though I couldn’t see her. So I spoke softly to her wishing her a bon appetit.

As I washed my hands at the kitchen sink and looked out the window as the other birds and squirrels began to descend from the trees, I reminded myself how lucky I am to live in Florida and to be able to give a little helping hand to creatures that want/need it.

In the past year I have rescued snakes, turtles, lizards, and mice and on the back seat of my car I keep a towel so that when I see a turtle trying to cross a road, I stop, pick him up and help him on his way.

The fact that it is a regular happening is indicative of the impact human development is having on the wild habitats of these little creatures. Which, while generally understandable, makes me sad.

But no, I am not about to rant about the environmental impacts of human development. Relax.

My thought today is much simpler. It is about the ability that we have to lend a helping hand to creatures that largely because of us, need it. There is a privilege in being able to give help to anyone and it reflects back into our own soul with a feeling of genuine good.

I deliberately chose the word “anyone” in that sentence above rather than “anything” because we, like they, are just animals. Some of us (not so much the MAGA crowd) might be able to claim superior intelligence over some of our brother creatures, but there is no real guarantee that is even true.

Being a dominant species, it behooves us to be softly aware of this dominance and not use it to diminish other creatures. Our evolution to dominance owes more gratitude to the deformity that became opposable thumbs, rather than our “vastly superior intellect”.

So, when we have on opportunity to interact with wild creatures, we should do so in a way that provides sustenance and safe haven. Treating them as objects to be discarded or abused is not just immoral, it is self-diminishing. We, in turn, lose the reflection of good that can warm our souls on a chilly day.

I can’t imagine a world without wild creatures and yet every move us humans seem to take keeps moving us in that direction. If it happens, it will happen to a world that I will be long gone from. But my children’s children and their children will look back from that bleakness and wonder how we could have been so cruel.

My ten bowls of food won’t impact the direction of the world, but at least for the moment, it brightens the lives of a small few friends and makes me feel the better person for having helped.

Try it yourself … it is an immensely rewarding feeling!

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