Human dignity, Motivation

The Star thrower

In today’s post I’ll be stealing from a fairly famous story attributed to Loren Eiseley the American Anthropologist, Philosopher and more. I’ve adapted Eiseley’s story somewhat. If you’ve heard or read it before feel free to skip this post.

A man was walking along the shore of a wide sandy beach after a huge storm. In the distance the man noticed someone stooping down regularly to pick up starfish from the sand and then throw them out into the waves. As the man got closer he noticed that the star thrower was a young boy. “Of course” thought the man to himself, “It makes sense that this idealist was only a child. A mature adult would look at the many thousands of starfish washed ashore and abandon any attempt at rescuing them as futile.

So, when the man got nearer he told the boy his opinion. “What do you think you’ll accomplish by throwing these few starfish back into the sea. You must know that it makes no difference whatsoever when there are so many starfish you won’t be able to rescue.” The boy looked up at the man then slowly bent down to pick up another starfish. He paused for a moment then flung the starfish as far out to sea as he could. Lifting his eyes to meet the man’s he replied, “It made a difference to that one!”

I often think of this story when I’ve been in meetings with “important” people and we have discussed big, very difficult to solve problems. I find it easy to let myself get cynical and think that things are hopeless. Then I remember the star thrower and realize that even though I can’t save “all of them”, I can save a few. And sometimes that’s enough!


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