My Inverness Elks Lodge No. 2522 on Lake Hernando is a very welcoming place. However, two have worn out their welcome.
A handsome pair of ducks recently waddled up from the lake and now camp out at the main entrance. They initially garnered oohs and aahs from all who saw them, and subsequently got free eats. That’s when the trouble started.
The mallard ducks have now become pests and signs are posted, “Don’t feed the ducks.” They will not leave the lodge and what they do “leave behind” is what makes them a constant nuisance. Even after being moved by a professional, the quack came back.
It’s like what often happens when there is outdoor seating at restaurants. Birds and squirrels will inevitably come around for easy pickings, searching for food that was left on the tables or fell on the ground. They will also watch for some “well-intentioned” humans to purposely feed them.
There are lessons here for all of us to learn. Feeding wildlife at such places creates both a nuisance for business owners, and a health hazard for customers and employees. Worse yet is when dangerous animals are purposely or even unintentionally fed.
A park ranger told me that if people feed alligators, they will associate humans with easy-to-get food and become a safety risk to people who come near them. And at a summer camp I had supervised, we had a black bear come out of the forest at least weekly to pick through the dumpster (that was the only summer we didn’t have any youths venture out of their cabins for mischief at night).
As an Eagle Scout, I know that feeding wildlife can lure them away from their natural feeding environments, disrupting what nature intends for them to do.
With human beings there is a comparable lesson to learn, but in relation to human nature rather than Mother Nature. Consider the people who are panhandling — for a living. Again, well-intentioned people will give money to panhandlers, but is this a good thing to do? If we see the same people at the same places holding up signs and continually give to them, are we really providing the kind of help they need? Or are we encouraging them to keep coming back to panhandle?
Human nature will consider an immediate handout of $5 as being more desirable than working for a minimum wage of $8.46, which is taxed and withheld until payday. With an unearned dollar, human nature will likely influence us to spend it impulsively or foolishly, but with a hard-earned dollar, we will more likely save it or spend it wisely.
As the executive director of Daystar Life Center of Citrus County, these are the kinds of things I must thoughtfully consider. Such thinking has led me to make some changes.
My newest plan in regard to financial assistance for housing is to avoid enabling people who have a history of poor decision making. If they are not willing to acknowledge how they have shown poor financial judgment and are unwilling to take steps to improve, then they will not be able to get financial help at Daystar for their housing needs.
It is my hope that Daystar will be able to help them get what they need to alleviate their financial distress and then help them form a plan to keep the crisis from re-occurring. I believe in helping people identify and get the skills and knowledge they need to succeed in life, and recognize the resources they already have and help them add more in order to sustain themselves.
Would you like to join us in our efforts? Visit Daystar anytime between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. Monday through Friday. We are located at 6751 W. Gulf-to-Lake Highway in Crystal River. For information, call us at 352-795-8668 or visit www.DaystarCitrusCounty.org.
Anthony D. Kopka is executive director of Daystar Life Center.