Making a Difference, One Starfish at a Time

A client recently remarked to me about how long and overwhelming life’s list of tasks can be.  She was starting to come to the conclusion that it wasn’t worthwhile – – that for every one thing she might work on, several more crept up and perhaps it wasn’t worth trying anymore.  Her despair and fatigue were palpable.  I asked her if she knew the story of the Star Thrower, which she did not.  I share it here as inspiration for us to continue on, even when life seems daunting, because we can make a difference.

The Star Thrower (adapted, by Loren Eiseley)

One day a wise man was walking along the shore; as he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.  He smiled to himself, to think of someone who would dance to the day, so he began to walk faster to catch up.  As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man and the young man wasn’t dancing, but instead, he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer he called out, “Good morning!  What are you doing?”  The young man paused, looked up and replied, “Throwing Starfish into the ocean.”

“I guess I should have asked; why are you throwing Starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.”

“But young man, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and Starfish all along it?  You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another Starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves.  “It made a difference for that one.”