Original Version (public domain)
As the old man walked down a Spanish beach at dawn, he saw ahead of him what he thought to be a dancer. The young man was running across the sand, rhythmically bending down to pick up a stranded starfish and throw it far into the sea.
The old man gazed in wonder as the young soul again and again threw the small starfish from the sand into the water. The old man approached him and asked why he spent so much energy doing what seemed a waste of time. The young man explained that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.
"But there are thousands of miles of beach, and miles and miles of starfish. How can your effort make any difference?"
The young man looked down at the small starfish in his hand, and as he threw it to safety in the sea, said, "It makes a difference to this one!"
Ka Hôkû Kai
Click on the above link for a Hawaiian version of this parable!
Yet another Version
A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things out into the ocean.
As our friend approached even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach and, one at a time, he was throwing them back into the water.
Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said, "Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing."
"I'm throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it's low tide right now and all these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don't throw them back into the sea, they'll die up here from lack of oxygen."
"I understand," my friend replied, "but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can't possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many. And don't you realize this is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down this coast. Can't you see that you can't possibly make a difference?"
The local native smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, "Made a difference to that one!"
© Jack Canfield and Mark V. Hansen, All rights reserved.
If you liked this version, you can find it in their book:
Canfield, J. and Hansen, M.V. (1993). "Chicken Soup for the Soul," Health Communications:Deerfield Beach, FL.
The book was #1 on the NY Times bestseller list and sold 30 million copies in the first 5 years! It was translated into at least 29 languages. You can also subscribe to Chicken Soup Home Delivery and get their inspirational stories e-mailed to you each day. Here are some more stories from their book series.
Also check out their expanded version of "Children Learn What They Live."
Last updated 5 September 1999
Copyright © 1999 by Duen Hsi Yen, All rights reserved.
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