Keep picking up the starfish!


With so much around us, ahead of us, and above us, we can still easily fall into complacency or discouragement: in thinking that what we do or can do is not important. We can fill our days with mindless activities, considering that our lives are dull and uninteresting.

It’s all to easy to say, “My life is boring. What I do is not important. What I can do is not useful.” And we do our routine chores thinking, “Is it worth it? Will all this effort mean anything?”

For a young mother it may mean endless diapers and dishes, exhaustion and eye bags. For a student it may mean hours of study with no apparent specific purpose. For a man it may mean, “Why should I give it another try? I am a failure!” For a person who is feeling lonely, the thinking could be, “I have nobody interested in me. I’m not a fascinating person, so I just better clam up in my little world and feel sorry for myself.” For another person it may mean, “Why quit my addiction? Why try again? I’ll never make it”. And for that person who has gotten tired of trying, the thinking may be, “It’s not worth it. People are ungrateful and difficult and I won’t bother trying again.” And another may say, “Why try to plan things when nothing seems to work out.” And we find ourselves giving up on the challenge, and giving up on the meaning of things.

A story tells of a young boy, enthusiastically walking down the sandy beaches of the ocean, bending over and picking up one starfish after another, and throwing them back into the sea. Long stretches of sand were strewn with starfish that had been stranded by the constant moving waters. A man, watching this activity with a puzzled look from a distance, approached the boy and finally asked him, “Why are you picking up starfish, when thousands will die anyway?”

The boy smiled, picking up another starfish, saying, “Yes, but to this starfish it’s worth it.” And throwing the star into the sea, he continued on his mission.

Let’s remember that any small action, however insignificant it may seem to be, makes a difference. It makes me different because I overcame my complacency and my discouragement; it makes the world different because something happened that was worthwhile.

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