Early one morning after a storm, a man set out for his daily walk on the beach just as the morning twilight was beginning to fade. As he began walking, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer far off in the distance.
As he got approached, he noticed that the figure was a young woman, and as he got closer, he realized that the woman was not dancing at all. The young woman was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean, one after the other.
He walked closer and called out “Good morning! May I ask what you are doing?”
The young woman paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
The man said, “After last night’s storm there are miles and miles of starfish washed up on the beach? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young woman bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, she turned and said, “I made a difference to that one.”
This is my favorite adaptation of Loren Eiseley’s 16-page essay, The Star Thrower. This story made a tremendous impression when I first heard it in my early 20s. It can be easy to think that making a difference requires great wealth to hand out or devoting your whole life to missionary work. This is not true. If everyone did what they could to make a positive difference to everyone in their little corner of the world, the world would become a very different place very quickly.