Words of Inspiration
Story - The Starfish
 Journey of Hearts
A Healing Place in CyberSpaceTM
The Starfish
Author Unknown

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.
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.

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 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 that ONE."
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. In trying to treat many of the life-style choices--smoking, obesity, drug or alcohol addictions--the social issues of homeless, welfare, and abuse--the psychiatric issues of depression, eating disorders, or suicide gestures--so many of these situations often seem hopeless.

Those of us who work in these 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 fields.
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.

Every so often, we really do make a difference, a life is turned around and that starfish becomes a star. 

Last updated July 23, 1998
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