It’s 2:30 a.m. and I am wandering through cyberspace reading indisputable facts like: You’re more likely to be killed by a donkey than in a plane crash. WHAT? No follow up. Now I’m awake wondering how a donkey might do it. A stealth kick to the head gets my vote. All this doesn’t lead to nowhere. It leads me to back to an encounter I had with a duck earlier in the day. I was dozing in the sunshine at a local park when I opened my eyes to this image.
It is not natural for a duck to approach a slumbering human being with such audacity. But the duck wasn’t alone. He came with an army of friends, all quaking, all expecting me to have something in the way of food to offer them. Which I didn’t.
They chased my heels part way home, hissing and snapping that I had shown up, given them hope, and had dared to leave without as much as tossing a stale slice of bread. Now I’m remembering another time something similar happened. I was in a third world country offering aid following a natural disaster. When we ran out of food and medicine the people were still hurting. They saw our white foreign faces and had conditioned expectations. Their hands went out. Their voices rose. And when we explained that we were empty…a near riot ensued. Our car got tipped. Machetes came out. There was a lot of yelling and some shoving and groping and helplessness on all sides.
It’s human nature to want to help the hurting and the hungry. Something innate in every child wants to feed a quaking duck. But people are meant to help themselves and ducks are intended to forage for their own food.
So now I’m awake wondering where the invisible line is…the one that crosses into enablement and conditions people and animals to expect handouts and to fume when hands are empty. Now I’m reliving experiences that still hurt because I’m short on resources and ability to meet needs that deserved to be met. And I’m wondering what I wonder as a mother, a friend and a human being…When does my helping do more harm than good?
Fellow writer Erol Ozan explained it much better than I’m doing: “Help someone, you earn a friend. Help someone too much, you make an enemy.”
Does that make as much sense to you as it does to me? There has to be a balance between heart and head, right? Our help is meant to strengthen, not weaken, so finding that line is paramount. But the blasted thing keeps moving!
In the meantime, I’m awake looking up the odds of being killed by an angry duck. I can’t find any stats, but I do run across a post listing animals that are more likely to kill me than ducks. Ants (I’ve been attacked TWICE by fire ants). Bees (my father was deathly allergic to bees). Horses and cows (I’ve been kicked by both). Deer (I’ve been in a car that hit a deer, and once a semi in front of me slaughtered a deer and flung the carcass onto my windshield, shattering it—a lovely experience). Snakes (My brain shuts down when I try to remember those horrors). Jellyfish (had to be rescued by a lifeguard in Santa Monica when a school attacked me). Mosquitos (I’ve survived malaria and dengue). Hippos (yes, I’ve got a hippo encounter to tell sometime—two, in fact). Dogs and sharks complete the list. I’ve never been attacked by a shark, but I have scars from dog bites. I worked for a vet and wanted to be one oh, so many years ago).
Ducks might not be on the list of most deadly animals…but it’s now 3:19 a.m. and Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds is playing on a screen in my brain. That’s not all, above the rain’s pitter-pattering on my window…there’s an indisputable sound that I cannot be imagining…quack…quack…quack.