A man was walking along the beach one morning after a big storm had been through the night before. All up and down the shore, as far as the eye could see, there were starfish drying out in the sand. As the man walked further, he noticed a little girl, several yards away, stooping down, picking up starfish, and throwing them back into the ocean. Just as soon as one starfish landed in the water with a plop and a splash, the girl would stoop, pick up another starfish, and toss it back out into the water. The man continued to walk in that direction, watching, amused, as the girl did this over and over. When he finally reached the girl, he chuckled. The girl had picked up another starfish and when she heard him, she looked up.
“Why are you wasting your time?”, the man asked with a grin. “There are starfish along this beach as far as you can see. Thousands of them! Here you are tossing them one by one into the ocean. How can you possibly make a difference?”
The little girl quietly stood up and flung the starfish in her hand as far as she could. At the end of a smooth silent arc, the starfish landed with plop and a splash out in the ocean. She turned around and smiled.
“I made a difference to that one.”
The man stood silently for a moment, pondering this response, then he stooped beside the girl, picked up a starfish and flung it into the ocean. The two continued silently together throwing starfish into the ocean where they landed, one by one, with a plop and a splash.
This parable, first told by writer Loren Eiseley, in his 1969 book, “The Universe”, has been told and retold many times in the decades since. It is a beautiful illustration of making a difference in your own corner of the world. It is easy to be discouraged by the enormity of a problem and use that as an excuse for inaction. As disciples, we are called to be ever faithful to the task before us. One person may not be able to solve poverty or world hunger, but one person can help someone in need. The beauty is that by acting, we inspire others to action. They in turn inspire others. One person really can make a difference, but it is always one starfish at a time.
Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear…