The Starfish Story

I first heard this story from a friend of mine that I went to Guatemala with in February 2008. He lived there for 17 months before my visit and it was his first trip back. It was my first trip ever. What I saw there was unimaginable! There are pictures of it in a photo album on Facebook titled “Humanitarian Trip to Guatemala” (though I left 3-4 really sad pictures out).
So…….I came back from there just wanting to fix *everything*. Fix everything, make everything better, take all the little kids I saw with Spina Bifida, adopt them all, give money to all the families….you know, fix everything.
Then my friend told me this story. :’^)

Ya can’t fix it all, you can’t do it all, but you can do something.
Maybe you can’t throw all the thousands of starfish back, but you can throw back a helluva lot over a lifetime…..

The Starfish Story
adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

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 on the beach before he began his work.

One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.

He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

(This story has appeared all over the web in various forms, usually with no credit given to Mr. Eiseley. Sometimes it is a little girl throwing the starfish into the ocean, sometimes a young man, once even an elderly Indian. In any form it is a beautiful story.
Loren Eiseley was an anthropologist who wrote extensively. This is a true story. He was the ‘wise man’ in the story, and he was walking along a beach after a storm and encountered the fellow throwing the starfish back.)

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This entry was posted in Parables, Stories and Excerpts I Wish I Had Written and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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