The Story of the Starfish

The Story of the Starfish

The first time I heard the Starfish Story by Loren Eisley, there was a connection.  The connection was seeing the ability to make a difference one person at a time.  For me it was one foster child, one coaching client, one friend, one person seeking a new career direction, one family member and even one stranger.  

If you haven’t yet read this story, it revolves around an old man who goes for a walk on the beach after a big storm has passed.

That day, the beach was strewn with starfish.

As the old man was walking, he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll for sure die.” 

“Young man,” the man said, “don’t you see that there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t possibly make a difference!”  After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. 

Then, smiling at the man, he said…” I made a difference for that one.”

This story makes me smile every time I read it.   I think about how many times in a day we make a connection with someone.   The chance to make a difference for “that one.”  This morning on my run, there were a multitude of “Good Morning” exchanges with people walking and running.   It’s as simple as a smile and a nod.  And it always kick starts my day!    

It is easy to say, “What difference will this or that make?”  “It doesn’t matter.”  “ I am only one person.”  “No one cares what I do or what I think.” If we all have this mindset, imagine all of the “that ones” we are missing.  Sometimes it just happens.   We often don’t look for it and we often don’t seek out the opportunity with intention. 

What kind of a difference can we make?  Will we make?  Today? Tomorrow?  Every day?  The starfish story is a good reminder to us all that even the smallest thing can make a difference.   And if we can touch just one person with a simple gesture, shouldn’t we make it happen?    

 To you it might be something small, but to that person it could mean the world in that very moment.

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