The Star Thrower


There is never a shortage of people who need help. Almost everyone I encounter can  benefit from something I could do - whether it be give them money, help work on their farm, or build a roof for their home so water wouldn't rain in.  Yet, it was impossible for me to help every single person.  For example, very few children at school could afford a backpack or enough notebooks.  Was I obligated to help all the students by obtaining enough backpacks and notebooks for every student? That would have been nearly impossible. Sometimes, that feeling of not being able to help everyone made me feel like I wasn't making as big of an impact as I should.  But then a fellow volunteer told me a story which I have re-told myself everyday in Kenya.  Now I know even the smallest bit of help can make a world of difference.  Here is that story: The Star Thrower, by Loren C. Eisely, 1969

Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.  One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer.  He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, so he walked faster to catch up.  

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all.  The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.  

He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"

The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out.  If I don't throw them in, they'll die."

Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one!"