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‘The Star Thrower’ and the Difference You Can Make

Every single effort has the potential to make a positive difference in the world.

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In 1978, author Loren Eiseley published an essay called “The Star Thrower.” It recounts a beach walk by a narrator who encounters a small boy exploring a field of starfish that had washed ashore. At first, the narrator thinks the boy is collecting the sea creatures for himself, but it soon becomes clear that the boy is searching for living specimens for the purpose of throwing them back into the sea.

The story has been re-told many times by many authors, motivational speakers and spiritual leaders. No matter the variations among versions, the lesson is always the same—every single effort has the potential to make a positive difference in the world.

Let’s not kid ourselves—the boy won’t be able to find all the starfish in time to save them. Some of them will become food for predators. Others will dry out in the hot sun. But still the boy scans the shore, ever-searching and ever-hopeful that he can do just one more act of care, one more life-saving gesture of kindness.

It’s fairly unusual—though not impossible—to see sea stars on the New England beaches I will visit this summer, but I will still walk the sandy shore with this story in mind. Instead of being overwhelmed by everything I can’t do to protect the planet, help those in need and be a positive presence in my family and community, I will sweep my eyes back and forth across the beach and scan for what I can do. A piece of trash I can pick up. A fellow beach walker I can greet with a smile. And maybe even a sea creature’s life I can save.

And when vacation season has ended and it’s time to walk sidewalks instead of shorelines, I will try to sustain the search for opportunities for kind, selfless actions. Even one is enough. Even one makes the world a better place.

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