Making a Difference*
The early morning waves gently kiss the shore and the sun begins splashing its colors across the dawning sky as the elderly gentleman takes his usual walk along the beach. With the thumb of his left hand, he slowly brushes at the sand on a smooth piece of sea glass. Gingerly, he safeguards his morning coffee in the other hand. An organic, medium roast from the mountains of Guatemala – his favorite and a staple at the local coffee shop. He hums a raspy tune to the old hymn, “This is My Father’s World”. The same tune he has hummed every morning for the last several years. The scenery demands it.
The salty breeze combs through the remnants of his silver hair as his eyes trace the beach for sand dollars that have washed ashore during the night. Down shore a little ways, backlit against the sunrise, another early riser is out enjoying the morning serenity of the ocean beach. Nursing his steaming coffee, he holds his gaze on this other character in the distance. The figure isn’t combing the beach as most of the early birds do. Instead, this figure seems to be picking something off the beach and throwing it into the ocean.
As the elderly gentleman gets closer, he notices that the figure is a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water. “Good morning!” the elder calls out, nearing the boy. “May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man pauses, looks up at his approaching company and replies, “Throwing these starfish back into the ocean.” Smiling at the boy’s stating of the obvious, the old man rephrases his original inquiry. “And why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” Without breaking stride the young man replies, “The sun is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back in, they’ll die.”
The elderly observer nods and takes another sip of his coffee as he watches the boy continue in his noble pursuit. Several star fish later, the old man says, “Son, you do realize that there are hundreds of miles of beach and that there are starfish all along the way. You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listens politely, seeming to consider his words. Then he bends down, picks up another starfish, and tosses it just past the breaking waves. After the starfish splashes safely back into the ocean, the boy turns to his quizzical, elderly friend and says, “It made a difference for that one.”
“So it did”, replies the elder, a chuckle escaping his lips. “So it did!” Twisting his coffee cup securely in the sand, he drops the sea glass into his pocket and spends the rest of the morning alongside his young friend – tossing starfish back into the waves.
So who will join that boy in making a difference…one life at a time?
* Original author unknown. Rewritten by Jeremiah Knoop