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The Starfish Story . . .

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A well-known author/poet was working and vacationing at the coast. Very early one morning he was walking along the beach just as the sun was rising to ready his mind for a day of writing. While enjoying the beauty around him, he glanced down the beach and saw a lone human figure dancing about between the surf’s edge and the beach.

Fascinated by this other person, celebrating the day that was about to dawn, he moved closer. As he came nearer, he realized that the young man was not dancing, but with graceful movement was picking objects up from the beach and was very gently tossing them out into the sea. Approaching the young man, he saw that the objects were starfish.

“Good morning! What in the world are you doing?" the author asked. The young man paused for a moment, looked up, and replied, “I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, if I don’t throw them back in, they’ll die here from a lack of oxygen.” With this, he returned to his work, tossing them back into the sea.

The smooth damp sand was littered with starfish, washed up onto the beach during high tide and stranded there as the tide ebbed. Struck by the apparent futility of the task, the man responded, "I understand, but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don’t you realize that this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast? Don’t you see that you can't possibly make a significant difference?"

The young man picked up another starfish, paused thoughtfully and remarked as he tossed it out beyond the breaking waves, returning it to the safety of the sea, "Maybe not, but I made a difference to that one."

-- Who have you made a difference to recently?? --

Many of us are familiar with some version of the "Starfish Story". The story, originally from the book "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eisley, appeared in an article in Reader's Digest back in 1991 and later was included in the first addition of Chicken Soup for the Soul in 1993. One adaptation of the story is recounted above.
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