“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me.
As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea.
When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die.
I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference.
He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, “It makes a difference for this one.”
I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
This story by Loren Eisley has been told in lots of different ways and places and I love it. It fits so well with my beliefs that:
- seemingly small things can, and do, matter.
- what we say and do on a daily basis can make a real difference – not just to ourselves, but to others, too.
Doing someone a small kindness: letting them out of a side road when driving, paying them a compliment, smiling at someone as we pass them in the street – all of these can result in a ‘ripple effect’.
That other person, or anyone else around at the time, might follow our example, join in, be inspired or cheered by our behaviour – perhaps they might be kinder to the next person they meet than they would otherwise have been.
Even with big projects and big changes we can start small – see my recent blog ‘One (small?) step at a time…’
And the ripple effect can spread to other areas of a person’s life, too.
One kind word or deed might help lift their mood, help them feel seen, valued, wanted, loved – and spur them on to other things.
Occasional check ins, moments of awareness – noticing how we are feeling and how we are behaving right now – can help us do this. See my blog ‘Acting on Autopilot’.
And a final thought on the matter:
“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a difference,
ignore the daily differences we can make, which, over time,
add up to big differences that we often cannot see.”
Marion Wrights Edelman