The story of the boy and the starfish is one of my favorites. In case you are not familiar with the story I have pasted one version below. If you would like a video version complete with dramatic background music, click here for a short YouTube version.
One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.
Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.
The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”
The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”
This parable is a good reminder of how doing small acts of kindness helps make a huge difference not just to other individuals, but potentially to our whole world. Our small act of kindness may ripple on through others and create a cascade of positivity in this often negative world.
As a teacher I feel like some days it is pretty clear which starfish (student) needs someone to help them get back in the ocean. It almost feels easy to take a few extra moments to give a compliment or carry on with a meaningful conversation. It is a quick jolt to my self-esteem to reflect and say, “Yes, I made a difference today!”
Other days there are many starfish being left out by the tide. Looking out over the classroom (beach) it sometimes feels like, “What’s the use? How am I really going to make a difference in this room full of students each with their own unique struggles?”
It is my job to help throw as many back and keep them going, to make a difference to as many as I can even if the task seems overwhelming. I may never know how an extra conversation, a small snack, or something as simple as a fresh pencil will impact any of my students. I do know staying distant and not attempting to help others is a missed opportunity to potentially “save a starfish”.
And on some days I know I am the starfish! I am grateful to have been blessed with family, friends, and colleagues who can help throw me back when times get tough and life gets overwhelming. To throw me back to the ocean where I can regain some strength and continue living out my life’s purpose. Peace.