"The Starfish Thrower"
"...It made a difference to that one"
The story of the starfish thrower has always intrigued me. Even as a child, I had these verses on a small, wooden plaque that sat in my room. Later in life, I used it as the basis of my senior thesis education major paper. I have meditated on the depth of its meaning and message, in each phase and season of my life, for as long as I can remember.
One of the lessons I have learned from this tale is regarding strength, courage, and commitment to do what you are called to do, no matter what. See, the starfish thrower in this story was not with a group of people, not trying to convince others to join in their mission, not looking to the right nor to the left to see what others were doing. The thrower was simply saving starfish. No glitz, no glamour, no fanfare.
The one saving starfish was doing just that, saving starfish; the hard work of sending the trapped creatures back into the turf, to be carried home with the tide. The mission was almost impossible, and the odds were stacked against this one. Between the miles and miles of shoreline, and the hundreds upon hundreds of starfish, this one person could not save them all. Being just one person, they could not rescue every starfish that laid strewn across the beach that morning.
But the odds and the mission and the lack of resources did not daunt this one, for there she was, seeming to dance across the sands, bending, stooping, standing, tossing, repeating this rhythm over and over and over. What thoughts run through her head? What determination lay in her heart? Did she ever feel daunted by her task? Did she come to a moment where it seemed like nothing mattered, and there was no difference being made?
Or did she know, that for every living, breathing, starfish she returned to the salty water, she was saving one more life, as small and inconspicuous as that may be to the rest of the spinning globe. That starfish may not even have mattered to anyone else in the entire world but to that starfish thrower. But it mattered to her.
She deftly picked up the prickly five armed creature, sensing its movements in her hands. Slowly, it breathed in, and out, struggling outside of its watery home. Gently, yet with purpose, the starfish thrower tossed the starfish back upon the moving waters, watching for a moment as it floated out of sight. Then, she repeated this action, over and over again.
I often wonder about this, perhaps imaginary, story, and the calm demeanor of the starfish thrower. When encountered by the man, his questions were answered with action behind her words. She didn't seem riled up, nor deflected from her purpose. She answered graciously and intelligently, keeping her task her primary focus, and using it as a means of illustration.
How often I find myself in situations aliken to the starfish thrower. Not literally wandering the beach throwing starfish back into the early morning turf, but metaphorically speaking. There are billions of people on this planet, all in need of something.
I can't possibly donate to every cause, every people group, every situation. I can't possibly make a difference in a starving country, or with a refugee people group. I can't save a nation or cure a ravegnous disease. There is so much unrest, poverty, conflict, and oppression running ramped in our world; how can I possibly make a difference during my short life span?
The fear of the grandeur of all of this can stop us cold in our tracks, and wanting to bury our heads like the ostrich. But when the vastness of the problems seem to overwhelm me, that is when I take a deep breath, stand a little taller, and look around me.
Where is my strip of shoreline to walk today? Where are my starfish to tend to? My influence and reach may seem small and insignificant. The ripple of the pebble I drop in the proverbial pond of life may seem small. But it did effect the waters around me. The people I encounter in my every day life need hope, and joy, and life, and love. The ones I run into that need grace extended to them - instead of offense or judgement - are ones I can help. Wherever I go, whether to the store a few blocks down the street, or to another country around the globe, whoever I cross paths with - those are my starfish. And I can be the difference maker in their lives. If I only have eyes to see and a heart to care.
I want my life to matter, as all of us do. I want to live with purpose and direction, even in the every day mundane. I am not always on the mountain top, traveling to great places, and having great adventures. Most days, I am doing very ordinary things.
But every day is a gift, every moment an opportunity to be an influencer of goodness and mercy. I may not be able to throw all the starfish back into the sea, but for those I am able to reach, "it made a difference for that one".
My challenge to you is this: look up, look around. Who are those right around you that need your kindness today? Who will come into your circle of influence that you can make their day a little brighter, a little better? We do not know what is going on in their lives, and they may need your gentleness, your patience, your smile of light and love. Be the difference! You never know how it may change someone's life!
Photo taken with iPhone 4, January 2012, Nassau, Bahamas.
Copyrighted Reflections of Revelation.