Whatever You Do, Make a Difference
Sometimes it’s easy to wonder if anything you do makes a difference in the world. When I feel like that I remind myself of this story adapted from a story by Loren Eisely:
A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” he asks.
“Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”
“But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”
The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea. “It made a difference to that one.”
What do you do to make a difference, even a small one? Leave your comments in the field below!
6 thoughts on “Whatever You Do, Make a Difference”
First heard this story at the Coaches Training Institute a few decades back. It is so applicable for those of us who consider ourselves “helping professionals” but offers wisdom to all who care to make a difference.
Thanks for making me one of those starfish. What a difference its made, and we’re not even rolling yet. Grateful.
Right. We usually try to make impact into groups or communities rather than individuals.
Poetic version, drawing an analogy to teaching…
IT MATTERS TO THIS ONE
As I walked along the seashore, this young boy greeted me. He was tossing stranded starfish back to the deep blue sea. I said, “Tell me why you bother, why you waste your time this way. There’s a million stranded starfish, does it matter anyway?”
And he said, “It matters to this one. It deserves a chance to grow. It matters to this one, I can’t save them all I know. But it matters to this one, I’ll return it to the sea. It matters to this one, and it matters to me.”
I walked into the classroom, The teacher greeted me. She was helping Johnny study, he was struggling I could see. I said, “Tell me why you bother, why waste your time this way. Johnny’s only one of millions, does it matter anyway?”
And she said, “It matters to this one, he deserves a chance to grow. It matters to this one, I can’t save them all I know. But it matters to this one, I’ll help him be what he can be. It matters to this one, and it matters to me.”
So today in Mentor Training my mentor told me that when she thinks of me, the one word that comes to mind is gratitude. So I know that others think of me as not only a person of gratitude but one that also provides services that allow others feel grateful too. This made me smile.
I heard a statistic when I first started in the financial industry that 75% of those over the age of 65 living in poverty are women. It became my mission to help one woman at a time beat that statistic. I have checked the statistic again since and the number is now in the mid to upper 60’s. I’d like to think I have been a part of that reduction!