The Starfish Thrower - Story by Joel Barker & Loren Eiseley
Once upon a time, there was a wise man, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore. As he looked down the beach, he saw a young man 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 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. 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!"
His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to the cottage to begin his writings.
All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late in the afternoon he realized that he had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not just to be an observer in the universe and watch it pass by, but was choosing to be an actor in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrassed.
That night he went to bed troubled. When the morning came he awoke knowing that he had to do something. So he got up, went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish into the ocean. You see, what that young man's actions represent is something that is special in each and every one of us. We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.
There is no greater joy or greater reward than to make a fundamental difference in someone's life. - Sister Mary Rose McGeady
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