The story below continually inspires me. As a minister who enjoys pastoral care, I have the privilege of speaking with many people and hearing their stories. I have to confess, sometimes the number of situations can be overwhelming. Then I look at the local community, the country and the world and see so many more difficulties, so many problems, so many people needing help. The sheer size of the issues and quantity makes me feel hopeless and helpless. It is at those moments when I think of this story.
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
The line that means so much to me is the final one: "It made a difference to that one!" So, in a world with so many issues that you feel you cannot make a difference, just focus on a small number of situations where perhaps you can. The secret is not to be overwhelmed but to just do one good thing at a time.
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Rev'd Martin Wheadon