Loren Eiseley once wrote a 16-page essay entitled “The Star Thrower.” This little story was picked up by numerous motivational speakers. When I first heard it, I was impressed by the message it conveyed. Although the story has strayed a bit from the original, the way I heard it goes something like this:
One day an old man was walking along the beach. It was low tide, and the sand was littered with thousands of stranded starfish that the water had carried in and then left behind.
The man began walking very carefully so as not to step on any of the beautiful creatures. Since the animals still seemed to be alive, he considered picking some of them up and putting them back in the water, where they could resume their lives.
The man knew the starfish would die if left on the beach’s dry sand but he reasoned that he could not possibly help them all, so he chose to do nothing and continued walking.
Soon afterward, the man came upon a small child on the beach who was frantically throwing one starfish after another back into the sea. The old man stopped and asked the child, “What are you doing?”
“I’m saving the starfish,” the child replied.
“Why waste your time? There are so many you can’t save them all so what does is matter?” argued the man.
Without hesitation, the child picked up another starfish and tossed the starfish back into the water… “It matters to this one,” the child explained.
That little vignette helps me to know that even my smallest actions make a difference. I am encouraged by that child’s example and it keeps me “in the game” so to speak, doing what I can with what is close to me. Even though we are constantly being fed a tsunami of statistics, graphs, and data about how things are not working, I plan to make a difference in the life of another starfish by throwing it back into the sea. I hope you do the same, and together, we’ll turn the tide for a better world for all.
– Justine Willis Toms