Episode 006: The Star Thrower
The Star Thrower
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore 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.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew 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 still 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 tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, 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!”
The Insights and Takeaways
Doesn’t this story just bring a smile to your face? The last part of this story gets me every time and I grin and chuckle every time I read it. Just imagining this young lad talking to this man on the beach, smiling so large as he throws a starfish into the horizon… saving this starfish’s existence. Genius.
I really enjoy this story because it feels like an extremely refreshing breath of air. I immediately reflect on what I hope I don’t become as I grow older and the importance of not letting the big picture frighten me.
This story of the starfish has become much more meaningful in my life since starting my teacher volunteer position at Cristo Rey High School in Kansas City. Through the Precious Blood Volunteer program, I’ve had the incredible opportunity to work with the bright young minds of the school. I want to emphasize that being a teacher is extremely difficult. You work long hours, you still have homework which usually takes the form of grading and planning your curriculum, and you may never know what kind of impact you make on your students.
All of the students at Cristo Rey High School come from economically disadvantaged situations and the struggle lies within trying to motivate these students to learn and to show them that they have so much potential for greatness.
Throughout my service, some of my friends, my family, and even some of my students stood in front of me, looked me in the eye, and said, “what are you doing volunteering at this high school?” There are over 300 students here. You are just one naïve 22 year old. You can’t possibly help them all succeed. You are just wasting your time.
Whenever I hear something like this, my response reflects that of the young boy. Maybe I can’t help all of the students. Maybe I can’t even make a dent in the overarching problem, but what I can do, is put my best foot forward and do what I can to help even just 1 student. The thought of being able to impact even just one student…that’s what keeps me going.
Looking back on the story, when faced with the countless stranded starfish, the old man is petrified by the overwhelming image. He sees sadness and sorrow. He sees a tragic dilemma that can’t possibly be solved. The old man puts his head down and walks right by every single starfish… defeated and hopeless.
On the other hand, the young boy sees an incredible opportunity. An opportunity to save starfish, one at a time. The boy is not afraid of how monstrous the problem seems. On the contrary, the boy is motivated to do what he can, no matter how small the impact is. One throw. One starfish. One life.
It is so easy today to be upset and overwhelmed by the negativity and pain that exists all over the world. I feel like I have to jump in a bouncy house and cuddle with puppies for an hour to even feel an inkling of positivity after watching the news for 10 minutes. Social media, social injustice, world hunger, poverty, extinction of animals… the list is endless. It is so taxing to the mind when I think of these issues; my heart races, my mind runs wild, and I am left feeling absolutely helpless. What can I do? Nothing. How can we solve these problems? We can’t. My mind turns into a dark void… but then I see a light.
A single flicker in the distance. I focus in and walk towards this light; hopeful and curious. What I see in the light moves me and fills me with so much warmth. It’s two young sisters selling lemonade to raise money for their mother in the hospital. It’s an old man volunteering for the local fire department. It’s a little boy throwing one starfish into the ocean, one at a time…
The world is not and never will be a perfect place. It can’t be everyone’s utopia. BUT regardless of how you look at it, this is our world; our single, one, planet that cannot be replaced. As we enter the New Year and move forward. I challenge you all to be that spark of hope. To dig within yourself and find that light, that spark not only for yourself, but also for others! Turn your situation around in order to Give hope to those around you. Do what YOU CAN for the betterment of others and yourself. Go out and IGNITE CHANGE.
Happy New Year. Cheers to 2017 and all the things we are blessed for and Cheers to 2018 and all the greatness that will come with it =]