When I have been at my lowest, not believing that I could dream again I always read the story of The Starfish Thrower, which was a pivotal turning point for me. This well known story by American author Loren Eiseley (1907-1977) that goes something like this:
“There was an old man who would take a walk on the beach every morning before he began his work. One day, he was walking after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. He noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer and the man called out, ‘Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?’ The young boy paused, looked up, and replied ‘Throwing starfish into the ocean.
The storm has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,’ the youth replied. ‘They will die, unless I throw them back into the water.’ The old man replied, ‘But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.’ The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, ‘It made a difference to that one!’” (adapted from The Star Thrower, 1969, 1977).
These story has been re-told many times by many authors, motivational speakers and spiritual leaders. No matter the variations among versions, the lesson is always the same—every single effort has the potential to make a positive difference in the world. In this story we see that there is something very special in each and every one of us. We all have been gifted with the ability to make a difference. We all have the opportunity to help create positive change, but if you’re like me, you sometimes find yourself thinking, “I’m already really busy, and how much of a difference can I really make?”
So when I catch myself thinking that way, it helps to remember this story. If we can become aware of the many gifts we have, we gain through the strength of our visions, the power to shape the future. We must each find in our own ways our starfish and then all of us can make a difference in both our professional and personal lives. We can be the starfishes in our lives – the people for whom we can make a difference. How can we make a difference?