adapted from The Star Thrower
by Loren Eiseley
1907 – 1977
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself 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 that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, young man, 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 man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, “I made a difference to that one!”
Few stories have gained internet popularity the way “The Star Thrower” has. Most often it’s sighted as “author unknown,” but it is actually a classic from 1979 written by Loren Eiseley, who has been hailed as a modern day Henry David Thoreau.
Loren Eiseley was both a scientist and a poet, and to this day his writing is the subject of much discussion and inspiration. In this story he is the “wise man” touched by the innocence and determination of another soul.
“The Star Thrower” is a classic story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others. And though it has appeared in many forms (sometimes it’s a native american man who is throwing the starfish into the sea, sometimes it’s a grandfather, or a young girl or boy) it is none the less a powerful reminder that we should be here for each other, and to seek to help, even in small ways, whenever we can.
In such turbulent times as these, when we may feel alone and small and unable to make any lasting changes we may find ourselves asking “What can I do that will make a difference?” or “What can one small person like me do?”
In reality we don’t have to be rich, talented or even particularly intelligent to make a difference in the life of another. We just need to remember that we ARE here for a purpose, and that making small changes in the world eventually add up to something bigger in the life of another.
When we become throwers of the stars, we too, have the power to change the world.