Recently we’ve seen two examples of people trying to do the right thing to help those out in the cold.
Troy residents quickly rallied to help William Bozman, a homeless veteran huddled in a sleeping bag during record cold. Michelle Noyes initially thought she was seeing a bag of trash, but realized it was a person and she got him a hot chocolate.
“His face was so, so red from the cold ... when he took his head out of the sleeping bag, I could see how cold and miserable he was,” Noyes said.
Then she rallied her community. They raised $500, which put some money in his pocket and a bus ticket in his hand to get to his friend in New York.
The other example also involved well-meaning, would-be helpers, but their help was unwelcome and potentially harmful.
Three swans whose pond was dredged in Belleville are living in a big puddle. Good-hearted folks have been feeding them, assuming they were destitute. Some even threatened to kidnap them and take them to shelter.
First, feeding waterfowl bread or other high-carb junk food makes them fat and pollutes the water so their natural foods won’t grow. Getting the wrong nutrients can cause “angel wing,” which can be fatal.
Second, these swans are not using the usual defense to the cold — flying south — because they’ve had it good for 15 years and raised their cygnets there thanks to owner William Wuebbels. Wuebbels feeds them the correct foods. Those can include cracked corn, duck pellets, bird seed, chopped greens and defrosted peas.
“Do not feed them stale bread and popcorn and doughnuts and Cheez-its,” he said. “Please don’t feed them junk.”
We all should do the right thing when we see someone or something in need, but wouldn’t it be better to first figure out the difference between help and harm? Leading with the heart rather than the brain is why social media is filled with pleas to help homeless puppies, but rarely with entreaties to adopt homeless children.