Sometimes it’s easy to think that you’re too small, too unimportant, too insignificant to make a difference. And when you feel that way it can help to lower your self-esteem.
But we can all make a difference with the smallest of actions. You might know the story of the starfish on the sea but it’s worth remembering. And if you’ve never heard it before it’s a useful lesson. It’s based on the writings of an American called Loren Eisley – this is my version.
The Starfish Story
In a seaside town, there lived an old man who used to go down to the beach to take his morning walk. One morning, after a very stormy night, he walked along the seashore and was amazed to sea hordes of starfish washed up on the beach. As far as the eye could see, in every direction, the beach was covered in starfish.
The man walked on, sadly reflecting that the starfish would surely die. Nothing could be done to help them. Further down the beach, the old man noticed a little girl approaching. Every so often she would pause, and as the old man and the little girl drew closer together, the man could see that the girl was stopping to pick something up and throw it into the sea.
“Good morning,” the old man called as the little girl drew close enough for them to speak. “Do you mind if I ask what you’re doing?”
The girl looked up and smiled, saying, “I’m throwing starfish back into the sea. The storm must have washed them up onto the beach and they can’t get back by themselves. If no-one throws them back they will die. Wouldn’t that be a shame?”
The old man replied, “But there must be thousands upon thousands of starfish on the beach. You can only save a few of them. What difference can you make?”
The girl bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it as far as she could into the sea. Then she smiled and said, “Why don’t you ask that one what difference I can make?”
The truth is you can – and do – make a difference every day. When you smile at a lonely person, when you say a few kind words to someone who feels beaten by life, when you offer a helping hand. You don’t have to do anything huge or dramatic to change someone’s world.