We feed, clothe, house and educate our children so they can eventually fend for themselves. “Cutting the cord” happens in stages. Potty training is an event that signals progress along this path. Getting a drivers license is another as is moving out.

Kids progress at different rates with the inevitable three steps forward, two steps back. Most eventually get there, to independence.

When a family has a child that, for some reason, isn’t capable of independence, provisions have to be made.

The homeless and those who are perpetually on food stamps are a similar situation.

Are they capable of self-sufficiency but untrained, not proficient with cultural expectations and language, or blocked by some other correctable condition?

Most would agree that society as a whole needs to help this category become self-supporting.

And most would agree that there are also those who truly are incapable of taking care of themselves. Whether because of a birth condition or accident, they just are not able to ever take care of themselves. It is not possible. In those sad cases, we look first to family or then to various social and government (society-funded) institutions and departments to maintain them in some degree of health.

But there are also those who choose to live off the system. They are able but unwilling. The opportunities are freely open to them but they choose to not try.

A few store fronts away from where I had breakfast today is a man with a shopping cart filled with black plastic bags undoubtly containing his meager and possibly questionable belongings. He has a cat on a string leash and is “parked” along the route cars follow when leaving. He says nothing, makes no movement except to look into the eyes of each driver as they go by.

Many months ago I stopped and gave him a twenty for a few meals. We talked for a moment, long enough for me to see that he could communicate, wasn’t overtly hostile, and from his movements, it seemed he was able to use all four limbs in a normal manner.

He needed help.

I asked if he knew about the shelter a couple of miles away where he could get more food, shelter and a chance for work.

He thanked me for the information and the cash. I drove away and on to my life those many months ago.

Today when I saw him again with no obvious changes in his situation, I didn’t stop.

The Forest Service discourages feeding the animals because they become dependent and while we feed and nurture our young, if they’re capable of independence, we “help” them toward it. Sometimes that takes the form of a push instead of a handout.

There are many motivators in life. A beautiful home in a nice neighborhood can motivate kids toward achieving the same. A hard, dirty job can motivate someone to get trained for a better job. Having kids can motivate parents to great sacrifices. These were, and still are, some of what motivates me.

Life is not supposed to be easy. Look at the evidence in all species and while you will see love and caring, you will also see kids getting the boot. And “the boot” is sometimes applied more than once, and usually harder on each new kick.

Most kids eventually catch on.

What should we do with those who could but who refuse to try?

Mother Nature has a simple, if brutal, answer and, at some point, I’m finished. The man with the cat on a string is there now.

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