The Starfish Story

Adapted from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley

1907 - 1977

An old man and his grandson were walking along a deserted beach at sunset. The little boy became concerned about all the starfish that had washed up on the beach. He bent down and, one by one, began to return them to the safety of the ocean. “What do you think you are doing?” said the man gently to his grandson.
“I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean,” said the little boy. “It’s low tide now and all these starfish have been washed up onto shore.   The sun is up and, if I don’t throw them back into the sea, they’ll die up here.”
“I understand,” replied the old man. “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get all of them. There are simply too many.  This is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down the coast. Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”
The little boy smiled, bent down and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he turned to his grandfather and said, “I made a difference to that one!”

Editor's Note:  There are many versions of this story.  This one is the simplest and comes right to the point of why teachers keep teaching even when classroom conditions keep them from helping every student in some significant way.  Our efforts are worth while if "It makes a difference for that one.".  It is especially rewarding when we meet those students for whom we made a difference and they tell us how greatly we influenced their lives.  Those moments drive us to do our very best with what we have.