Kindness Gone Wild

Today’s post is from Bill.

Our conversation about kindness brought to mind a story told by my elder daughter.

She returned to her third floor condo having bought some greens at the farmer’s market. On the greens, when she went to wash them, she found a worm. Now you or I might have simply flushed it but she didn’t feel right about that. Instead, she wrapped it in a lettuce leaf and drove it to a park where she could set it free.

I once gave a neighbor woman twenty dollars as my contribution toward cab fare so that a baby squirrel could be driven to the wildlife rehabilitation center. Because, you know, you can’t have too many squirrels.

Is that going too far?

Have you ever committed an act of irrational kindness?

60 thoughts on “Kindness Gone Wild”

  1. Rise and Be Kind Baboons!

    Oh, yes. I have.

    I pick up drying worms after a rainstorm, then toss them into the grass. My whole life I do this. I don’t think I have ever even admitted this before, much less write it in a public access blog.

    Now I am blushing. Too much empathy when you empathize with a worm. Do worms even HAVE emotions?

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        1. I did not know this, Bill, but I am honored to have been declared a deity/goddess/redeemer. Of course, to a worm every other being must seem powerful.

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        1. According to the Minnesota DNR, “all the 15 species of terrestrial earthworms” in Minnesota are non-native, invasive species. But then they talk about one species being native . . . which I find confusing.

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  2. i used to name the boxelder bugs in my house when my kids were little. they would ask when we were out ” whats the bugs name daddy?” and i would without a moments hesitation say ” thats shirley mel and tandy” they would sometimes ask which was which but not that often. when they were little they would sometines get freaked out with bugs and i would remind them that we all live her together.
    i was at the hardware store and they were out of the magic boxelder bug eradacator and the guy working the floor said ” i dont understand what the big deal trying to kill them is anyway. they dont do anything but eat dust and the dont carry germs or smell when they die in the walls. what is the big deal?” that turned the boxelder bug corner for me.
    i have long been an adovcate for life but i have a hypocritical twinge when i smack a misquito or flush a tick. i have always been critter sensative but the opportunities to save the earth comes more in a vegetarian mode than in a elly mae critter wrangler.
    worms centapedes beetles and slugs are safe we. the ideas behind modern insect killingt methods are kind of appaling. i wont fgo ther now but if you knew what you were doing when the stuff the store sells you get implemented you would squirm a bit.
    i do open the back door and free the moths, bees, wasps and whatever else comes into the living quarters from the great outdoors. squirrels worms, baby snakes can all go right outside my doors. i have a red squirrel right outside my kitchen window every morning. i hadnot noticed that red ones are less common that gray ones until my sister came over and was amazed thsat i had one to view. it lives in a tree that should by alll rights be cut back and the dead brancheds trimmed off but the woodpeckers, squirrels and other critters do like the perch to hank=g out on. right outside my window. i dont plan on pushing to get it removed anytime soon.

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    1. There’s a gray squirrel that visits my feeder who has a strikingly red tail. It makes me wonder if grays and reds sometimes interbreed.

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      1. I have several gray squirrels. Two are black, two or so are gray and black three or so have red patches. gray squirrels can vary in color from reds through browns through grays to black. But I had one a few years ago that made me wonder that too because it was gray/red and was rather small.

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      2. I don’t think so, Bill. The common squirrel of Minnesota woods is the gray squirrel. The red squirrel, common in northern woods, is a distinct species that is about half the size of the gray squirrel. In Iowa I grew up with a different critter known as the fox squirrel. It is somewhat larger than the gray squirrel and colored a rusty red.

        Gray squirrels commonly present different colors. Coal-black gray squirrels are not uncommon. When I could hike the bluffs above the Mississippi river bottoms I was delighted to see a pure white gray squirrel. It lived about a year. Being snow white is dangerous if you are a squirrel living among owls.

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        1. There’s an albino squirrel in my neighborhood that has been around for several seasons. Guess owls and other predators aren’t as abundant here in my neck of the woods as they are along the banks of the Mississippi.

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      1. Red squirrels are known to be “scrappy” and spicy. Gray and fox squirrels are more mellow. We had a fox squirrel as a pet once in our home. Nutsy was fun until the day he bit my father’s thumb. A day later my folks dumped him in an oak forest.

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      2. Red squirrels pretty much always ou- tough grays. Both force fox squirrels to back down. I have all three, although have not seen a red in a while.

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  3. I grew up in the harder world of a small family farm where you live by the death of animals you know, sometimes almost pets. And I grew up in the even harder world of the forest. I see it as odd how devoted people are about their pets. You have to be rational about these things, or at least I do.
    BUT, every now and then I have rescued a wild animal. You cannot be rational all of the time.

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  4. I had a friend who was original in many ways. John grew up hunting and fishing. In mid-life he had a sort of Zen conversion and suddenly he felt it was wrong to kill anything. He quit hunting and began releasing all his trout. But John hated one critter that was extremely common in his area of northwest Wisconsin: flies. Flies drove John nuts. John had incredibly quick hands. He could snatch a fly buzzing around him in the air, then throw it against the floor so hard it died instantly. In fly season it was nothing for John to catch and smash 30 flies a day. Each time he killed another fly John would softly say, “There goes another of God’s beautiful creatures.”

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  5. Another kind of irrational kindness might be when you treat children too leniently. I know a parent with an adopted son who would always give him an extra chance. Always. Until school he didn’t learn that there were actual limits for his behavior, and is now paying the consequences in adult life. His mom, probably unconsciously, thought if him as “Poor Child” and thought she was doing him a favor.

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      1. I don’t know that that’s a fair assessment, tim. I think there has always been a portion of every generation that was overindulged and unmotivated and who had unrealistic expectations of what the world owed them. I would definitely not trade my coming-of-age years with those of the kids facing today’s challenges. Our generations (I think the baboons are scattered over a couple) are leaving future generations enormous challenges that we didn’t have.

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  6. My dad had a semi-pet squirrel that he fed corn to on the boulevard outside their town home. It would run up his arm and sit on his shoulder. It also liked to sit and stare in the kitchen window, waiting for dad to come out and play. The other residents objected,”they are rodents, you know”, and dad was worried about Squirrely surviving without aid, so he packed him up and drove him out to my uncle’s farm, where dad let him go in a grove of trees right next to a big corn bin. I don’t know if it would have been better to leave him in town, but dad thought it was for the best.

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  7. My mother befriended a chipmunk when my folks lived in the cottage on Lake Minnetonka where my sister now lives. Chippy lived under the living room. Once tamed, he would come in the front door, climb up my mother’s pants and chew nuts sitting on her open palm.

    One night my folks heard a terrible commotion under the living room. My dad speculated that Chippy was having a fight or having wild sex. But he was just guessing. My mom was relieved the next day when Chippy came in the door and fed on her hand again.

    Then she screamed in terror. This wasn’t Chippy! Another chipmunk had been living down by the dock where the lake met the land. My mother had always called him “Ivan the Terrible.” Why? She’d shrug and say, “He has mean eyes.”

    Mom suddenly realized the chipmunk sitting on her hand was Ivan. He had apparently killed Chippy in a big fight. Although he had not been tamed, Ivan had observed how Chippy got all those nuts. My parents threw Ivan outdoors and never let him in again. After all, he had murdered their buddy Chippy.

    (I’m guessing some folks will doubt this story. To the best of my knowledge, it is true. I didn’t hear the fight, but I did get to see Chippy walking in the front door to get nuts from my mother.)

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  8. Thanks, Bill, for that wonderful story. Love the photo of the baby squirrel. Having raised three baby squirrels to adulthood, I have a soft spot in my heart for them. I find them fascinating and fun creatures to be around. So to answer that first question, no that was not going too far, at least not in my book. Pretty sure Jacque would not agree.

    But what kind of question is the last one you posed? Is there such a thing as irrational kindness? How do you distinguish rational from irrational kindness? I’ll grant you that driving a worm, wrapped in lettuce, to a nearby park, is a bit extreme, I would have just put it out in my back yard. But bless your daughter’s heart. I think the fact that she related the incident to you indicates that she herself was amused by it, and perhaps even thought it a bit out of the ordinary. Ultimately, I think I’ll have to answer NO! I don’t think any kindness is ever irrational, ergo whatever acts of kindness I have perpetrated have been perfectly sane and rational, perhaps not by other people’s standards but by mine – at least at the time.

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    1. My daughter’s condo is downtown, so there is no backyard.
      I understand and agree with you, pj, to the extent that I never regret an act of kindness, no matter how disproportionate it would seem to others. But it’s in acknowledging the disproportion of this thoroughly human foible and especially how others would regard it that makes it amusing.
      Driving a worm to the park is good for that worm but not beneficial to all worms or to any of us, for that matter. Likewise, sending a baby squirrel to rehab may preserve his life, but does it insure he will ever be able live a happy, squirrely life? Nature seems to manage the squirrel population pretty generously. When is it really kind for us to step in? Of course it’s an expression of empathy and I happily admit to that, but is it genuinely kind? How far can you/should you take it? Should you save worms that need your help? Well then, should you go out after rainstorms looking for worms to save?
      That’s why I called them acts of irrational kindness.

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      1. About 10 years ago, a squirrel got in our fireplace and chewed the wires to the fan, accidentally connecting them through itself. It was electrocuted. After several weeks we thought Santa died in the fireplace. What a mess. Squirrels are fine outdoors, but they are pretty pushy with their acorn/walnut/bird seed agenda in our yard. I am sure they all watch Fox News.

        Now and then a big hawk takes up residence in the favorite tree of the squirrels which keeps them away and give us all some peace in the yard.

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        1. Oh, I know, Jacque, squirrels can be a royal pain if they get into your house. We had one very determined one get into our attic, and he was damn near impossible to evict. Husband tried everything from steel wool to bleach soaked rags, even fire! (don’t ask). The squirrel no sooner vacated one space than we’d discover he’d have shewed another hole in the soffit and gotten in somewhere else. Kept husband on high alert almost an entire summer.

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  9. My parents spent their “golden years” sitting in sofas that looked out through huge picture windows. They never tired of looking at the lawn, the lake and all the wildlife that lived in that space.

    Once a baby crow fell out of a tall hackberry tree, landing on the lawn. It seemed healthy but was not mature enough to fly. My mother panicked. A baby crow stranded on the ground would be an easy meal for the many owls living nearby. She went in the yard and tried to encourage the little crow to fly away. She did that by galumphing around the little bird while flapping her arms in a flying motion and howling, “FLY, baby, FLY!” This was an impressive thing to see, as she was about 70 at the time.

    She had to go to town. When she got back the baby crow was gone. She never knew if it had benefited from her demonstration or maybe just become a treat for some owl.

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  10. ot: typing left handed only right now. carpel tunnel surgery a mess right now, but pt may correct it. Huge pain in wrist and forearm as well as fingers and scar tissue. But, have idea for hsort post i will do in a couple days. Sandy and my sister cleo’s birthday today. cleo here this afternoon throuhg tomorrow afternmoon.

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  11. Afternoon all. I completely understand all this. More than once I’ve driven with Child/Teenager to the Wildlife Rehabilitation Center with either a baby rabbit or baby squirrel that had lost its parents (probably to one of my dogs). Once was during evening rush hour – 45 minutes to get over there. Another time I remember we got there w/ the baby rabbit and they took the bunny but said “this bunny is big enough to survive on it’s own” and suggested next time I take it down to the parkway and leave it in a wooded area. And, of course, I can’t drop off an animal there without feeling the need to write a check!

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  12. I remember scooping up Charlie the Cat and locking him in the house so that a Mom Squirrel could move her babies in peace (and intact) from one tree to another… Decided I didn’t want to watch Nature take its course.

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  13. I can’t remember committing an irrational act of kindness, but then, as you may have guessed by my silence during the kindness conversation, I’m not a very nice person. Just ask my kids about 10-15 years ago.

    I will answer your first question, though (“Is that going too far?”). Yes, any kindness shown to squirrels, especially in south Minneapolis, is going too far. Period. But go ahead and be nice to worms and other animals.

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  14. I took a nest of squirrels to the Wildlife Rehab Center once. The nest fell onto the sidewalk with four little ones in it. Sadly, they all died.

    I have the live traps for mice. When a trap catches one, I take it to a nearby park and release it. My Mouse Release Chant goes something like, “You’re furry and cute as a bug, little mouse. Live long and run free, but not in my house.”

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