Special Christmas Gift; Starthrower

copyright © Judith Moriarty

A Special Christmas Gift

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.  He had the habit of walking along the beach before he began his work.  One day he was walking along the shore; as he looked down to the beach, he saw a human figure who was moving like a dancer.  He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day, so he began to walk faster to catch up.  As he got closer, he saw that it was an old man and that he wasn’t dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.  

As he got closer he called out, ‘Good morning!  What are you doing?’  The old man paused, looked up and replied, ‘Throwing Starfish into the ocean.  The sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them in they’ll die.’  ‘But,’ said I, don’t you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and Starfish all along it, you can’t possibly make a difference!’

The old man listened politely, then bent down and picked up another Starfish and threw it into the sea, past the breaking waves.  ‘It made a difference for that one.’

His response surprised the man, he was upset,  he didn’t know how to reply, so instead he hurried away and walked back to the cottage and began his writings.

All day long, as he wrote, the image of the old man haunted him; he tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted.  Finally, late in the afternoon, he realized that he the scientist, the writer, had missed the essential nature of the old man’s actions.  Because he realized that what the old man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and watch it pass by, but was choosing to be a participant and make a difference.

That night he went to bed, troubled.  When morning cam, he awoke knowing that he had to do something; so he got up, put on his clothes, went to the beach and found the old man; and with him spent the rest of the morning throwing Starfish into the ocean.

You see, what the old man’s actions represent is something that is special in each and every one of us.  We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference.  And if we, like the old man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision to change the future!  We must find our Starfish, and if we throw our stars wisely and well, our tomorrows are going to be a wonderful place.  Remember (overwhelmed as we are by the magnitude of need and suffering etc) Nobody can help everybody – but everybody can help Somebody.  


~ Note this is inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley

  • The Starfish Story as told by Loren Eiseley