Families, communities, and nations are strengthened when we teach by word and example how to be independent and self-reliant. I wrote about self-reliance a couple of days ago, including a summary of a story about some gullible gulls. I am still thinking about the story and thought I would share more of it. I believe it is a good story to teach children and youth about self-reliance and why self-reliance is important to freedom.
The story entitled “Fable of the Gullible Gulls” first appeared in the October 1950 issue of the Reader’s Digest. President Marion G. Romney who was serving as the Second Counselor in the First Presidency of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints shared the story during his talk in the October 1982 General Conference of the Church. Here it is as he shared it.
“In our friendly neighbor city of St. Augustine great flocks of sea gulls are starving amid plenty. Fishing is still good, but the gulls don’t know how to fish. For generations they have depended on the shrimp fleet to toss them scraps from the nets. Now the fleet has moved….
“The shrimpers had created a Welfare State for the … sea gulls. The big birds never bothered to learn how to fish for themselves and they never taught their children to fish. Instead they led their little ones to the shrimp nets.
“Now the sea gulls, the fine free birds that almost symbolize liberty itself, are starving to death because they gave in to the `something for nothing’ lure! They sacrificed their independence for a handout.
“A lot of people are like that, too, They see nothing wrong in picking delectable scraps from the tax nets of the U.S. Government’s `shrimp fleet.’ But what will happen when the Government runs out of goods? What about our children of generations to come?
“Let’s not be gullible gulls. We … must preserve our talents of self-sufficiency, our genius for creating things for ourselves, our sense of thrift and our true love of independence.”
After quoting the above, President Romney said, “The practice of coveting and receiving unearned benefits has now become so fixed in our society that even men of wealth, possessing the means to produce more wealth, are expecting the government to guarantee them a profit. Elections often turn on what the candidates promise to do for voters form government funds. This practice, if universally accepted and implemented in any society, will make slaves of its citizens.
“We cannot afford to become wards of the government, even if we have a legal right to do so. It requires too great a sacrifice of self-respect and political, temporal, and spiritual independence.”
Please keep in mind that the Reader’s Digest article was published in 1950 and President Romney shared it in 1982. Remember when Mitt Romney was running for President of the United States and got in so much trouble because he spoke of the “47 percent”? Our nation is now run by politicians who were elected because they promised to give away the treasure of the nation. At the same time we have a greater percentage of our people living in poverty.
I often see signs warning about feeding the bears when I go camping in Alaska. We are warned to keep our food inside the vehicle or in bear-proof containers. We are told that we should not feed the bears because we do not want them to become dependent on getting fed. Bears that depend on being fed often become dangerous when they do not receive food.
I see a great correlation between the gullible gulls, bears, and people who are addicted to receiving government handouts. When they lose their food supply, they either die or they become dangerous and demand to be given what they want. This happens because they have it too easy, and they are not required to work for what they get. The problem is that the loss of self-reliance causes a loss of freedom. The gullible gulls were so dependent on the shrimp fleet that they were dying because they did not know how to catch fish for themselves. The bears that become dependent on man to feed them lose their lives also; they are usually killed when they become nuisance bears.
People who become dependent on government also lose their freedom. They cannot use their agency to make their own choices, to progress, and to become wealthy if they so choose. Remember the people who could not leave New Orleans because they did not have money to flee Katrina until their government checks came? That is a drastic result of being dependent. Less drastic things happen to people all the time as they await their handouts from the government.
Do you want your children to become the “gullible gulls” of the human world? Of course, you don’t. The best thing you can do for your children is to require them to do something for everything they get. They need food to eat so let them help prepare it or unload the dishwasher. They want to have nice clothes to wear or toys; then you should require them to take care of what they have. Teenagers who want to use the family car should be required to keep it clean inside and outside. Wise parents do not give handouts to their children! We can strengthen our families, communities and nations by requiring people to work for what they receive.