I have always liked this little story: The Starfish Story, by Loren Eisley.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?”
The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.”
“Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said … “I made a difference for that one.”
I often have the misguided notion that I must do something big and grand in order to make a difference in life. When there is such a huge need, it seems like any effort will be fruitless, because it can’t possibly bring an end to the vast need.
The truth is, though, that we really can make a difference by doing something small. Even if it only makes a difference in one life, it is still making a difference! And when many people decide to do something that might seem small, the result can be amazing and huge.
Our local grocery store conducts a fundraising opportunity for the Muscular Dystrophy Association. For $1, you can put your name on a little clover that gets put on the store’s front window. Giving $1 seems pretty small, until you return the next week and see little clovers plastered across the window. Many people giving $1 adds up to several hundred dollars.
Every Christmas we try to find a project or person to give to. This past Christmas, we decided to join up with the Samaritan’s Purse Operation Christmas Child project. The goal is to pack a shoebox with small toys, personal hygeine items, school supplies, etc. for a child in another country who has few material possessions. Our two oldest children were old enough to participate, and we packed two shoeboxes to ship overseas. We used an online option that let us know where our boxes were taken. We had one box go to the Dominican Republic and one to Malawi. (It’s in Africa. We had to look it up.) Our two boxes joined 8.2 million — yes, million! — shoeboxes that traveled around the world to bring a smile to a child.
Several weeks ago, we got a large envelope in our mailbox, addressed to our son. I wondered who would be sending our son some mail. I glanced at the return address, “Republica Dominicana,” it said. I could hardly believe my eyes as I tore open the envelope! Inside was a letter from the pastor of a church and photos of dozens of beautiful children that come to the church. The pastor thanked us for sending the box and also said he would pray for our family. I’m still amazed that such a small gift made an impact.
And, really, the greatest impact may have been made on me. When I feel troubled that I can’t possibly do enough or give enough to solve all of the problems of the world, I need to remember that I can’t do enough or give enough to meet life’s needs. But, I can do what I can and give what I can, and that will make a difference, even if it’s only to one starfish.