When One Person Can Make a Difference
Journey of Hearts
A Healing Place in CyberSpaceTM
April 18-24, 1999
When I first read this story,
I was struck by the message. I realized that this story underscores the
reason why many of us continue to try and make a difference. It is a perfect
example of how one person can make a difference. Obviously I was not the
only one struck by the message of the Starfish, since it was chosen as
the theme for this years National Volunteer Week.
We need people who can keep throwing
back the starfish, time and again, realizing that some may wash up to the
shore and need to be tossed back into the ocean again. The rewards are
realized by recognizing that every so often, we really do make a difference,
a life is turned around and that starfish becomes a star.
I awoke early,
as I often did, just before sunrise, to walk by the ocean's edge and greet
the new day.
As I moved through the morning
dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion.
As I approached, I realized that
the youth was not dancing to the bay, but rather bending to sift through
the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up starfish
and then standing, to heave it back into the sea.
I saw a youth, bending and reaching
and flailing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the
perfect day soon to begin.
I asked the youth the purpose
of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they
cannot return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun
rises, they will die, unless I throw them back into the sea."
As the youth explained, I surveyed
the vast expanse of beach, stretching in both directions beyond eyesight.
Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness
of the youth's plan became clear to me and I countered, "But there are
more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up.
Surely you cannot expect to make a difference."
The youth paused briefly to consider
my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning
to me he simply said,
"I made a difference to
Those of us who work in the fields
of medicine, counseling, social services--may appear to have a hopeless
plan. Some critics, may think we "cannot expect to make a difference."
Yet the optimism prevails, it must, otherwise you cannot work in these
We keep throwing back the starfish,
time and again, realizing that some may wash up to the shore and need to
be tossed back into the ocean again. The rewards are realized by recognizing
the individual accomplishments.
Perhaps each of us in these
fields recognizes a time in our own lives, when we were washed ashore and
some kind soul tossed us back into the ocean again, so we could continue.
Because many of us have experienced being the "Starfish" is the reason
we can find the strength to continue throwing back the other starfish washed
ashore. Every so often, we really do make a difference, a life is turned
around and that starfish becomes a star.
Last updated April 7, 1999
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