Friday, March 31, 2006

Feeding the Sparrows

I heard a phrase the other day that just stuck with me. A man was referring to a political maneuver by saying that this plan will “feed the sparrows by supplying the corn to the horses.” What an interesting turn of the phrase, a fascinating metaphor, and a descriptive picture. Now for those of you who never grew up on a farm or have hand any exposure to manure this might not resonate with you. You see … um … how can I put this delicately … corn is not processed through our digestive system, nor is it processed well through that of a horse. So while the horse might love eating corn right off the cob, as we fed it to them growing up, very little of it actually gets broken down and used for energy. That is why corn is ground into a powdery feed for us and our animals. We call it flour; on the farm we just called milled corn “feed.”

Now that you know that, you know that if it is not ground down it shows up again in the horse’s manure and birds come along after and take care of those unused seeds.

The political insinuation in this metaphor was that we “feed” our poor people by “feeding” our rich and the poor only get what was not processed by the rich. But I am not sure that metaphor was a negative thing. One of my jobs in the business world was shipping to Asia. I worked for over a year on a million dollar cost saving plan where we changed from shipping in wooden crates to tri-wall corrugated cardboard. This saved us money on cost of materials, on shipping weight, on volume shipped, and on disposal of boxes at destination. The biggest problem I ran into was that the poor people in this Asian country would not be able to have the wood crates discarded by the company for building their houses (shacks) any more. The Asian destination company had to deal with irate poor sparrows having their “feed” cut off after the “horse” digested it. There was a symbiotic relationship established that was now in jeopardy.

While feeding the sparrows by supplying the horses might be both good and bad we might also be careful “not to look a gift horse in the mouth.”

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