There was a skeptical man who lived alone near the ocean in a faded little house once painted in peacock blue. This man would wake up in the morning, stretch, (while still lying in his bed, eyes closed) exhale a long dispirited sigh, open one eye, then the next. He began the day with one thought in mind; this day would surely be like the one before it – dull and uninspiring.
He had a habit of walking on the beach after he ate his breakfast. This day was no different (yet) and shortly before the clock struck nine, he opened his tired peacock blue door to begin his daily routine.
As he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He cocked one eyebrow and his lips formed something like a smile, but not really a smile at all. It was a skeptic’s smirk 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 the figure he saw was that of a young woman, and what she was doing was not a dance at all. She was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “You there – may I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The woman paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” You see, the man wasn’t only a skeptic, he was a curious type.
The woman answered quickly without disrupting her rhythm, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the skeptic asserted, “My dear young lady, 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 woman bent down, picked up another starfish, flung it far out into the ocean, and as it met the water, she said, “I made a difference for this one.”
adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977)