“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, and 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 all 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.”
― Loren Eiseley
Sometimes in life we can find ourselves wondering if our life has made a difference. Does what we do really have an impact or effect? To me it seems that in today’s world too many are seeking to impact the world through impacting everyone. If we haven’t left our fingerprint or name in a very visible way, then we tend to think we have not really had an impact!
The story above is one of my all time favorites, because it teaches some very valuable lessons. Here are a few that I have learned from this story. First, it was the young man who had the powerful words of wisdom for the old wise man to hear. Secondly, the young man understood the value and importance of a difference made for just one! And thirdly, the young man’s fingerprint and name would not be visible upon the starfish, yet he could be certain that he had made a difference for each and every one of the starfish that he was able to save and throw back in the water.
I wonder what would happen if the story were to continue. What if the wise man received the young man’s wisdom and started to bend down next to the young man, pick up a starfish, and throw it in the ocean? What if others saw this growing work and also became involved? I see this creating a ripple effect of multiplication. The young man, in this scenario, made a difference not only for the starfish that he was saving, but also for the old wise man and every other person that he had inspired and set an example for!
While I may not get to see nearly as many of the children of Latin America rescued and offered an opportunity for a Christ-centered home, family, and education I will know that I have made a difference if I continue to fight for just one. If I continue to be an example, and Abogar continues to be an example, of what it looks like to give up what we want (ie. metaphorically playing at the beach, surfing, swimming, sunbathing, beach volleyball, etc.) to fight for each starfish that we can to have life, maybe we too will be able to have others, like the wise old man, come alongside us and create a ripple effect of more and more lives being rescued and changed for the glory of God!
This young man made a difference! We want to make a difference. Do you want to make a difference? Let us remember the wise words of the young man… “It made a difference for that one.” May we not focus on the multitudes, nor praise and public applaud for what we do, but may we focus on making a difference, even if and when it is just one person at a time!