Along for the ride:

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Starfish-Making a Difference (writer unknown)

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 the beach before he began his work. One day he was walking along the shore and as he looked down the beach, he saw a human figure 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 it was a young man and 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". "I suppose I should have asked, why are you 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 another starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves and said, "It made a difference for that one."


  1. Hmmm, wish I could read your mind sometimes... a penny for your thoughts...

    Sure hope if I ever need to be thrown back into the ocean that some kind soul like this will be there...

  2. Very nice story. It's one step at a time, but those steps can add up to a journey, and in the end it doesn't matter how long the journey ended up being but that you took each step on the way.

  3. Owen, I like this story because, even though the wise man was right from his big perspective, it really was the young man with his small efforts and independent thinking who was indeed making a difference.
    We can't dissolve into inaction because a problem seems to big. Momentum is created one small step at a time. The third perspective would be that of the starfish and we can all imagine which approach he would choose.

  4. Kate, and that it was not a selfish journey.

  5. My kin' o' story.

    Damn right it made a difference for that one!

    Keep on throwin', but don't hesitate to get thrown now and then, too.

    Footprints in the Sand

    One night I dreamed I was walking along the beach with my Oversoul. Many scenes from my life flashed across the sky.

    In each scene I noticed footprints in the sand. Sometimes there were two sets of footprints, other times there was one only.

    This bothered me because I noticed that during the low periods of my life, when I was suffering from anguish, sorrow or defeat, I could see only one set of footprints, so I said to my Oversoul,

    “You promised me,
    that if I followed you, you would walk with me always. But I have noticed that during the most trying periods of my life there has only been one set of footprints in the sand. Why, when I needed you most, have you not been there for me?”

    The Ovesoul replied, “The years when you have seen only one set of footprints, my friend, is when I carried you.”

    –adapted from Mary Stevenson, 1936

  6. Thank you for that. And again, for your comment. Between this story and the notion of random acts of kindness, maybe the world can be changed for the better little bit by little bit. (Although sometimes my cynical side suspects that being kind is actually a supremely selfish act, because it's such a feel-good thing.)

  7. You're right. Too many people filling up their 'too hard to do' boxes.

  8. I throw worms off the lane so that they don't get squashed. I don't understand why people think I'm mad. :-)

  9. Hey English - lovely story. Thanks for posting

  10. So true. One small deed can make a huge difference. We need to remember to do the small kindness now and then.

  11. Instead of watching the boy and judging him, I would like to think that the man with so much time on his hands would begin helping throw the star fish back into the sea.

  12. Deborah, I started a post once about altruism and whether it counts as such if it makes one feel so good.
    I didn't want to pick it apart and so I left it alone.

    Martin, "too hard to do" limits so many aspects of life. My Dad used to say (repeatedly) "The darn fool didn't know it was an impossible task and so the idiot just went and did it."

  13. @eloh and Dave, glad you liked it.

    Jean,I like to think most of us do.

    TechnoBabe, Maybe that's the part of the story that we didn't get to yet. The part with two men, joined in a mission to help the starfish.

  14. Ms. Pliers,Thanks for the support. However, "The Footprints" story makes me imagine someone walking in circles. In addition, if anyone is to carry anything it would probably be my job. Hey Ho, Hey Ho...etc!

  15. I love this story! Thanks for posting, and I love the photo too...

  16. I love this story! I even printed it out and read it to my daughter last night. :)

  17. Michelle, I can't take credit for either but I can pass along the pleasure.

    Shattered, I found this story on a greetings card in an English card shop. I always buy two of the cards I like, one to give and one to keep. This is from my keeper drawer. I'm glad you liked it.