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What’s Your Starfish?

Have you seen this story/quote from 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, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said,
“It made a difference for that one.”


My Starfish

I’ve mentioned how important volunteering is to me before.  I get a little blue if I don’t help out regularly – the world seems like everything in my head and I lose perspective.  That is one reason I became a “Big” in Big Brothers, Big Sisters.  It’s also one of the reasons I wanted to start fostering dogs again.  It’s good to get out of my own head for a while and concentrate on someone or something else.

I know that the dogs that I helped in the Houston SPCA for the main year I was there were just a few in thousands, the people I delivered meals for with Meals on Wheels would have had a different driver if I wasn’t there, and the two ladies I bonded with in hospice care both had family that was there for them too…BUT, I helped.  It doesn’t matter if I could only help a few since a few is definitely better than none.  I’m keeping that little story in mind when I get bogged down with how insignificant each of us seem individually…if we all contribute just a little, we’d make an astounding difference.

What’s your starfish?

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6 comments to What’s Your Starfish?

  • Ray Clarke

    Good point Crystal. Sometimes we focus too much on the big picture. Our family sponsors a child, doesn’t seem much but collectively hundreds of thousands of children are sponsored each one by an individual. Yes it matters to Jasper that we sponsor him, but because we have joined in something that hundreds of thousands are also doing there can be a massive impact.

  • It’s a great point. I’ve seen that story before but it rings true every time I see it. You can use the example to illustrate many points. I equate it to being kind or smiling at a stranger. You alone can’t make the world a happier place but what if everybody gave one extra smile or did one more nice thing every day? Added together the difference would be huge.

  • MikeS

    Mine is blood donations with the Red Cross. I do the pheresis donation, which I can do more often the regular whole blood. I try to make it over once a month. I’ve even been called a few times specifically for a patient in need, that’s even cooler. It just takes me a few hours a month, but I know it makes a huge difference for the people on the receiving end.

  • Love that story – smile every time I see it :)

  • Great story, thanks for sharing.

  • @Ray, that’s awesome. Have you ever met Jasper?

    @MB, so true! I try to smile and generally give off friendly vibes to everyone. I think we’d all be happier if we all did the same.

    @MikeS, I need to start donating regularly again. My first smart phone was stolen while I was donating a few years ago and I’ve only gone in once since then. I’ll go next week.

    @J Money, it’s one of my favorites. :-)

    @Raquel, thanks for reading!