The Starfish Story
Adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley
One day, as a wise man was walking along the ocean, he saw an odd thing. Someone was far off, repeatedly bending down, standing up, and then flailing an arm as if throwing something. It was an odd motion to see, almost like the figure was dancing.
As the wise man drew nearer, however, he saw that the person was not dancing. In fact, he saw that it was a young man, and he was picking up small objects from the sand, turning toward the ocean, and throwing them past the crashing waves into deep water.
The wise man came closer still. ”Good morning,” he called. ”May I ask what you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask you,” said the wise man then, “why are you doing such a thing?”
The young man glanced around the beach. ”The sun is up and the tide is going out,” he said. ”If they stay on the beach, they will die.”
As the young man glanced around the beach, so did the wise man. Sadly, the wise man saw that starfish littered the beach in both directions, stretching out of sight. ”But young man,” said he, “There are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish along every mile! You cannot expect to make a difference!”
At this, the young man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the water.
“It made a difference to that one,” he said.