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A man is taking a solitary walk on the beach and notices a the beach is littered with starfish; starfish which have washed ashore and which need water to survive. He also notices a little boy frantically running from beach starfish to beach starfish, picking each one up and throwing them back, one by one, into the ocean.
After walking for a few minutes, the man approaches the little boy and asks, “What are you doing?” And the little boy responds, “I’m throwing the starfish back into the water so they can live.” Gently and remorsefully the man shakes his head and tells the boy, “There are too many starfish, son. What difference can throwing a few back make?”
The boy pauses for only a moment before bending over, retrieving another helpless starfish and flinging it gently back into the sea. “I made a difference to that one”
I have to admit, I had never heard the starfish story until a few months ago and since then, the story continues to pop up all around me. I don’t know if my higher powers are trying to tell me something or it’s the Pregnant Lady Theory (you get preggo and suddenly are more aware of other preggos round you), but this story gives goosebumps every time I hear it.
This story first came across my radar in September when I wrote an article on how the role of “Guidance Counselors,” now called School Counselors, has evolved over the years. I won’t go into deep detail, but I can assure you that these men and women are the unsung heroes of Middle School and High School. Gone are the days of helping kids discover what they want to be when they grow up and their stretched thin days are spent working with students on a socio/emotional/mental health level.
I can tell you from experience, School Counselors have been a Godsend for our family.
The starfish story was relayed to me by School Counselor, Alison Medeck, when I asked how in the world three people (the number of counselors in our local Middle School) can service over 600 kids.
“This program is social/emotional learning at its finest,” Medeck noted. “Each of the three counselors at the middle school level has roughly 630 students assigned to each of us. We all wish there were more of us; at least be one counselor per grade. Sometimes it feels like we are skimming the surface with some kids because we are spread so thin. But I do have hope that there will be more counselors put in place in the years to come because the bottom line is; it would only benefit the kids. When the sheer numbers of the kids we help becomes overwhelming, I remember the story of the little boy who was rescuing beached starfish by throwing them back into the sea. When a passerby commented that throwing a handful of starfish back wasn’t going to make a difference, the little boy responded by tossing one more lucky starfish back into the water and commenting, ‘I made a difference to that starfish.’”
At the end of the day, I am sure anyone in the education field would agree the combination of being able to form one-on-one relationships with kids, and see those same kids bloom and grow, is the best reward of all.
My takeaway is that, for those of us working hard to live a more intentional life, the “starfish story” is a standard call to duty. It’s knowing that each life you touch matters, even if it is only one. It’s known that if we are showing up in life, even if we are just one woman —one person — we can effect change as an individual.
Look at Malalal. Look at Elizabeth Warren. Look at the #metoo on social media. It just takes one person to raise their voice or hand, spark change and make a difference.
In my case, my main Starfishes are my kids and they are the center of my World. But what about the others beyond my Soul Pack? That, my friends, is the center of my “whys” and “hows” for the New Year. How will I use my voice and influence to make change. How can I strive to make a difference to “that one?”
Makes ya think, eh?
How about you? What starfish will you unbeach and make a difference?