Yesterday as we drove down I-10, my friend Gerry told me the starfish story he heard …

As the story goes, the beach was littered with thousands of starfish struggling to return to the sea.  Amid them was a young girl.  She picked them up one by one and began tossing them back into the ocean.

A man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing that?  There are so many!  Certainly you know you can’t save them all.  What you are doing will not make a difference.”

The little girl stood up — only for a moment — and wiped her brow, then gazed at the endless ocean before her.  She looked left, then right.  there were starfish as far as she could see in each direction.  she stooped again, picked up another starfish and tossed it back into the ocean.  She turned to the man and smiled.  “I saved that one!”

Speechless, he joined her in her quest to save the starfish.

Unlike the little girl who methodically went about her business, we sometimes are plagued by thoughts that what we do may not make a difference.  Like the Good Shepherd who recovers the single, lost sheep, or like the little girl who saves starfish one by one … if the positive things we do in life inspire just one person to be a better person … if what we do helps only one man, woman or child, then what we do makes a difference to the world!

starfishThe little girl did what she did from the kindness of her heart.  She was not concerned with the outcome.  She did what she did simply because she knew in her heart that she was doing the right thing, and doing the right thing was all that mattered.  The man, on the other hand was only concerned with the outcome and because he could not visualize it, he considered her action pointless and unproductive.

Choose to be the little girl.  If you base your choices on what is right, then what you do will make a difference …. starfish by starfish.

As popular as I have learned the story is, I had never heard it until Gerry told it to me yesterday.  As of this morning, this blog is being read in 52 countries around the world.  I want to make sure at least one person who has not heard this story, does, so I choose to pass on Gerry’s starfish story.  I know it will make a difference!

Background notes

“The Star Thrower” appears in Loren Eiseley’s book The Unexpected Universe.  Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977) was a prominent American anthropologist, philosopher and natural science writer.  He was most active from the 1950’s until his death in 1977.  The Unexpected Universe was published in 1969.  This link will take you to a version of Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower” edited by James Cook.  It is an extraordinary piece of writing that I highly recommend.

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