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Growing up in New Jersey, I learned the limits of help and charity. I learned that motivations of some would-be rescuers were not based on concern for the well-being of others but on something else: a need for power and control. Some used charity to keep their wounded victims in captivity. I learned to be skeptical of intentions disguised as guidance because more often than not, they resulted in dreadful consequences.

My skepticism of rescuers began when I had a secret childhood crush. She was fond of animals that had been abandoned. Because of my desires, I followed her in search of stray dogs, cats, and other creatures that were cast off by society. At first, it was exhilarating. We were making a difference, rescuing animals that were cast aside and forgotten.

We debated endlessly on the role humans have on nature. Although I didn’t have her passion for animals, I knew this made her happy, so I didn’t oppose anything she did. As she prattled about the plight of wildlife, I took her words literally, as if her words came from a Greek goddess.

What I didn’t know was that she was espousing a distorted worldview called liberalism. However, I decided to make a trade off. I would hide my skepticism about the rights of furry animals for the company of a woman. But I was jealous because these animals competed with me for her affection. I dreamed of ways to remove these animals from the picture.

Realizing she’d never stop loving animals, I tried a new tactic, manipulation. I tried to warn her that skunks will always be skunks and nothing could change that. However, her heart bled for these animals. She always defended, denied, and excused any behavior that depicted animals as offenders instead of victims.

I couldn’t mask my contempt any longer. I felt trapped. I had a conservative view on wildlife, but felt ashamed. I was taught to respect and love others, but these animals were nasty. They pooped, peed, and smelled. My exposure to these animals didn’t give me an appreciation for wildlife, but made me realistic about the world we live in.

Through the years, I continued to follow her, searching for every broken wing, stray dog, and wet cat. We even cried when a robin we tried to save died.

I was losing her to wildlife. However, my chance came to win her over. We caught a Canadian goose. This bird was mean and ornery. I thought the bird would test her resolve and she would become discouraged, but the reverse happened. She became infatuated with the goose and continued nurturing it.

One day, tragedy struck. When comforting this goose, she was viciously attacked. She ended up in the emergency room with a gash, a bloody nose, and a black eye.

After that incident, we drifted apart. We reunited years later, but I realized she hadn’t changed. She had shifted her passion from rescuing wounded animals to saving wounded men. Although her brilliance could have landed anyone, she suffered from low self-esteem. Her ego wouldn’t allow her to pursue a male who was work driven and ambitious. Instead, she was in search of men with broken wings, people who lacked motivation and drive. I began to understand why she rescued wounded souls. Her rescuing wasn’t based on moral certitude; instead, she used charity as a way to control and have empowerment over men she felt were weaker. She realized if she kept nurturing, they would remain in captivity and never be able to leave her. Her need to improve others was a hidden form of gender role reversal that allowed her to have dominance.

I warned her about the dangers of enabling the drifter, but she insisted these people needed a voice. She eventually lowered her standards and became entangled. Instead of encouraging these men to take responsibility and find work, she became pregnant and the men dipped off. It was disheartening to see her when she became feminine and submissive.

In her quest to save wounded ducks, she lost her potential too. She refused to believe that drifters were drifters for a reason. While it true that some seeds can be rescued, most seeds are just rotten and when allowed to mix, they destroy the whole crop. Today, she has five kids, receives government assistances, and is facing prison time for a drug raid in her home. I would like to say she was the exception, but I’d seen this movie too many times.

When people ask me how to help the poor, I ask them, do they know the difference between a wounded duck and a wounded rat? If you don’t know the consequences of helping either one, just walk away and help neither one. You and society will be better off.