The Story of the Boy and the Starfish

happy employee at desk

An old man was doing his daily walk along the beach one morning, when he spotted a young boy crouched by the water, scooping something up from the sand and throwing it into the sea.

The beach was normally empty at this time of day, and so the old man stopped to watch for a while.

He noticed that the boy kept on shuffling a little further down the beach, then repeating this same action again and again – stopping, scooping, throwing, moving.

“What are you doing there, boy?” the old man asked, walking closer.

“I’m saving these starfish that are stranded” replied the boy, “if they stay on the beach they will dry out and die, so I’m putting them back into the ocean so they can live.”

The old man was silent for a few seconds.

“Young man,” he said, “on this stretch of the beach alone, there must be more than one hundred stranded starfish. Around the next corner, there must be at least one thousand more. This goes on for miles and miles and miles – I’ve done this walk every day for 10 years, and it’s always the same. There must be millions of stranded starfish! I hate to say it, but you’ll never make a difference.”

The boy replied “well I just made a difference for that one”, and continued with his work.


How Often Do You Make a Small Difference?

If everything you did had to have a huge, immediate impact before you gave it a little of your time, then you’d end up doing very little with your life. And sometimes, the little things we do can add up and turn into big things – they make ripples that spread further than we can see.

Those starfish that the young boy saved may have gone on to produce thousands more.

And just imagine if the man who stood idly by had saved one starfish each time he had walked that stretch of beach – he’d have saved 365,002 by now (depending on when the leap years fell!).

So the next time you get a chance to make a small difference, don’t think of the big picture and just do it – after all, it might not make a difference to you, but to somebody else, it might.