Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean every morning. He would first take a leisurely stroll along the beach, and then would sit down to do his writing.
One night, there was a dreadful storm. In the morning, the big storm had passed and the old man walked down to the beach. He found the vast beach littered with starfish. They stretched as far as the eye could see, in all directions.
Far in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy walking towards him. However, the boy was not walking directly towards him. Instead he would pause every so often, bend down as if to pick up something from the sand. Then he would straighten up and throw something far out into the sea.
As he grew closer, the old man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what is it that you are throwing into the sea?”
The young boy walked straightened, and walked up to the old man with a starfish in his hand. He replied “I am throwing the starfish back into the ocean. The storm washed them up on to the beach last night. Now the tide is far out, and the starfish cannot return to the sea by themselves. When the sun gets too high, they will die because of the heat. So I am throwing them back into the water before that happens.”
The old man was bewildered and wondered if the boy was simply stupid. He did not however want to sound rude. “But there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. It is impossible to save all of them. I’m afraid you won’t be able to make much of a difference”, he said.
The boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the water. Then he turned and smiled at the old man, and said, “I saved one more starfish. It did make a difference to that one!”
Adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
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