Doing the right thing is often hard. It certainly takes more time and energy than ignoring a problem.
According to a team of researchers at University College London, choosing the path of least resistance is hardwired into our brains. In discussing his study involving participants choosing between two tasks, one harder than the other, lead researcher Nobuhiro Hagura explained “our brain tricks us into believing the low-hanging fruit is the ripest.” Notably he “found that not only does the cost to act influence people’s behavior, but it even changes what we think we see.” The cost-benefit analysis our brain naturally runs can bias the way we think if the brain decides the cost to act is too high.
A couple of months ago I met my running group early in the morning. As we were about to begin our run, I heard loud mewing in a schoolyard nearby. I did not think much of it and started on my run. When we finished our run in the same location, the loud mewing started again. While I needed to be on my way to begin my day, something nagged at me to investigate.
I was shocked to find the very loud noises were coming from a very tiny kitten. One I would later find out was less than two pounds. While he was terrified of me, he was also obviously alone and very hungry. I have never owned a cat and frankly do not know much about them. I retrieved some dog food that just happened to be in my car, fed the kitten, and went on my way.
A couple hours later, and shortly after I arrived at my office for the day, I started feeling guilty about leaving this tiny cat behind. I felt so guilty my daughter and I went by the school at the end of my workday to check on the kitten. He had eaten all the food I left early that morning and was loudly asking for more. I fed him again and left.
That night, I had the realization the kitten was not likely to survive on its own next to a very busy street and school. My daughter and I left early for work and school and went by to see if we could catch it. No such luck. Later that day on my lunch break, and with equipment on loan from local nonprofit Robinson’s Rescue, I set a humane trap for the kitten.
We had to go by the school three more times before we caught him. It took a lot of time and effort, especially for a self-identified for a dog person. Once we caught him, I planned to find him a good home. Turns out, with much coaxing (really begging) from my daughter, that home would be ours. Two months later the kitten’s life is very different. He’s now safe and has a family. His two best friends are dogs. In hindsight, I am glad I made the effort.
The week I found the cat, Community Foundation of North Louisiana released Community Counts. Since 2008, CFNLA has been tracking data for the Shreveport-Bossier Metropolitan Statistical Area in six categories – Population, Economics, Human Capital, Health, Social Environment, and Physical Environment. For the Foundation, this data helps guide us in our grantmaking. The data points reveal some tough issues we as a community must come together to solve like high poverty rates for children and low kindergarten readiness scores. Solving these complex problems will be hard. It will take collaboration. It will take much time and effort. It will take persistence and patience. We cannot continue down the path of least resistance. We must roll up our sleeves and do the right thing.
To access Community Counts 2021, visit our website: cfnla.org/data