This is a true story.
Has anyone heard of the Boy and the Starfish story?
I had not, until just recently.
This past July 4th, on a long solitary walk along the beach, I found myself practically stepping on a beached starfish clearly washed up from the receding tide. With the curiosity of a child, I picked it up, noticed it was still living, and instinctually ran to the waters edge to cast it back into the sea. My eyes darted around and I noticed that with careful observation there was a stranded starfish every couple of steps. They all looked like they were desperately trying to inch their way from the tide pools back to the safety of the expansive ocean. I tried picking up a few and putting them back in the ankle deep tide pool. But as soon as I did, quite bizarrely, they’d start schooching their way out of the water back across the 30 yards of beach to the breaking waters. And that’s where I found them. Seemingly hopeless, spent, and waiting to dry out and die in the 100 degree sun some 15 yards from safety and freedom.
I spent the next 2 hours searching for and in my mind rescuing these starfish from unintentional suicide.
People would walk past and ignore me. No one bothered to help, and no one seemed to care.
When I had finally made it back to the land of the masses – beach umbrellas, blankets, and balls galore – I spotted one last starfish just on the edge. As I reached down to throw it back in the sea, an attractive young mom with an infant told me not to bother. Apparently as she knew it, starfish that had “gotten that far” to shore were certain “goners.” They couldn’t be saved or maybe just didn’t want to be saved. I was immediately discouraged as I either spent 2 hours away from the family on a hopelessly meaningless mission, or I just learned a lesson about human nature – it’s easier to not do and make excuses, than to do something that requires effort, time, and perhaps some empathy.
The first thing I did when settling back into my beach chair was to grab my phone and google starfish – and that’s when I came upon the seemingly well-known story of the Boy and the Starfish.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed
a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, What are you doing?
The youth replied, Throwing starfish back into the ocean.
The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach
and hundreds of starfish?
You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish,
and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said
“I made a difference for that one.”
To date, after reading countless articles and now knowing more about the starfish than I ever really intended to know, I haven’t found one shred of truth to that woman’s hypothesis that starfish on the beach are guaranteed goners.
So the moral of the story here is: Do what feels right. Even when no is watching. No one cares. And no else believes.