A man was walking on the beach one day when he noticed a boy reaching down, picking up a starfish, and throwing it in the ocean. As the man approached the boy, he called out to him, “Hello! What are you doing?”
The boy looked up and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the man.
“The tide stranded them. If I don’t throw them in the water before the sun comes up, they’ll die,” the boy replied.
“Surely you realize that there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You’ll never throw them all back, there are too many. You can’t possibly make a difference.”
The boy listened politely, then picked up another starfish. As he threw it back into the ocean, he said, “It made a difference for that one!”—story adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977).
Rescuing so many vulnerable starfish on the beach probably looked like a hopeless task to the gentleman who was watching the energetic young boy. And we too may feel like it is a hopeless situation to help so many needy people in the world.
If you listen to the news, you know that the world’s problems are monumental. Millions live in poverty. Some are hungry; some are homeless. Some are marching, protesting various causes. Many are filled with hatred, selfishness, and greed. Many are sick and dying. Some are living in countries ravaged by war, and some are grieving the death of loved ones.
With so many problems, how can one begin to make a difference anyway? More than likely, if you are like I am, you do not have enough money to be a major contributor to many worthy causes. You may not be able to volunteer for the Red Cross or go help with clean-up after a disaster.
But we can still make a difference in the world, even though it may not be on a large scale. Each of us can make a difference, one day at a time, and one person at a time.
Mother Teresa who is well known for devoting her life to helping the poor in India said, “In this life we cannot always do great things. But we can do small things with great love.” And she also said, “If you cannot feed a hundred people, feed one.” Feeding one person does not seem as daunting as trying to feed hundreds—that’s more doable!
After the death of someone you love, you may feel lost and in doubt about what to do next in order to just survive and adjust to your new circumstances. You may not have the fortitude or the physical energy to help others—at first, anyway.
But if you can muster up the strength to do something good for someone else, you too will benefit! You will gain strength and confidence and satisfaction from helping someone else, because doing good is also good for you!
No, you cannot save the whole world, and your deeds need not be large. The power of a smile, a kind word, or a hug is immeasurable. Even small deeds can make a difference. A gentle spirit and caring attitude can make a big difference for someone else. And you can say as the young boy who threw a starfish back into the ocean, “It made a difference for that one!”
By Dawn (Thorn) Phelps RN/LMSW
Call about the next "Living Life after Loss" Group at:
709 Liberty, Clay Center, Kansas
Dawn Phelps, RN/LMSW, Group Facilitator