Nature Connection: Entitlement

By: Mary Richmond

While waiting for my coffee to brew early in the morning I often look out the window into my backyard. These days it is still a bit dark when I wake and the yard is often quiet except for my friend, the song sparrow, who seems to start every day with a song, no matter what. I wish I always felt so strong and happy that I could sing in the dawn.

Soon the cardinal family is up and about and the first of the young orioles is at the feeder. I haven’t put out new orange halves or jelly yet, so the oriole is poking about the empty dish without any luck. An adult male oriole arrives and turns to look in the window. Anyone who has a feeder knows the look I got. I answered him, staring just as pointedly and silently. “After I pour my coffee, sir.”

Feeder full, bird bath emptied and refreshed, I return to my spot by the back door, hot coffee in hand. A catbird arrives at the bird bath for a sip of water. Another catbird and then two more, hop about on the ground below, clamoring for attention.

Across the yard young grackles are begging food from a parent that is doing its best to ignore them. It pecks at the ground, pulls up a fat worm and gobbles it up. The young grackles make even more racket, but the adult continues to hunt and eat, hoping perhaps that its young will imitate its behavior. They begin jabbing at the ground with their beaks.

The song sparrow and its mate have two young that are following them around. They, like the grackles, seem to be trying to teach their progeny the finer points of feeding themselves.

These are the days when young hawks, including ospreys, can be heard screaming almost incessantly. They want food brought to them. Now. “Too bad for you,” their parents seem to be thinking. “Here’s how to find that yummy food you’re demanding. Watch me.” Some learn quickly, others do not. Not all young birds survive this period of learning. Some fall prey to predators but some also become weak and anemic. Some even die of starvation though food is plentiful all around them.

Watching and listening to young birds demand and scream all week has suggested to me that entitlement may be a somewhat natural feeling, especially for predators and young animals. Entitlement doesn’t necessarily extend to a right to survival, however. Foxes and coyotes march along wherever they want, even roads. Ospreys dive into water and latch onto fish that are too big and heavy to lift. Unwanted mice move into kitchens where cats and traps await them. This doesn’t always work out well for them.

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the definition of entitlement is “the belief that one is inherently deserving of privileges or special treatment.”

Unfortunately, the aftermath of our unexpected tornado that devastated more than a few neighborhoods this past week unearthed some unpleasant examples of human entitlement. Videos of people yelling at and hurling things at utility workers were shocking. These were supposedly well-bred, well-behaved people. Obviously, they were not.

Although we feel entitled to conveniences such as electricity, refrigeration and air conditioning, these are privileges, not rights. If people can’t get through a day or two without these, imagine the discomfort and inconvenience a real hurricane will bring.

I happened to witness some of the hundreds of trucks arriving on Cape to help us. The huge outpouring of help was enough to bring tears to my eyes. They deserve our thanks, not condemnation. Don’t be the screaming baby hawk that thinks it is entitled to its life of luxury. Be grateful for what you do have at any given time. Our freak tornadoes showed us just how quickly life can change. Be glad it wasn’t worse. A little humility and gratitude are good things.