Starfish

Based on the story by Loren Eisley…

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 misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion.  I saw a young girl, 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 sadly realized that she 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 a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea.  I asked her the purpose of the effort, and she said “The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they can’t return to the ocean by themselves.  When the sun rises, they’ll die, unless I throw them back to the sea.”

As the young girl spoke, I surveyed the vast expanse of beach, stretching in both directions beyond my sight.  Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation.  The hopelessness of the girl’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 can’t expect to make a difference.”

The girl paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible.  Turning to me she simply said, “I made a difference to that one.”

I left the girl and went home, deep in thought of what she had said.  I returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping her throw starfish in to the sea.