Every so often a sappy story comes across my desk that reminds me of the importance of education for all kids. Recently it was the starfish story by Loren Eiseley that landed in an email. I love the story which I have read many times having been adapted with different characters. The one I include in this post is my favorite version. I like it because the older man who is walking the beach, thinks he sees a dancing figure which turns out to be a child throwing the starfish. I imagine the child to be about 11 years old looking questioningly up at the gentleman with rolling eyes, like only a young adolescent can do so well.
But, of course, the importance of the story for me as an educator, is the importance of reaching out to every single child because we never know which one is on the edge for whatever reason. The smile or question or positive comment that might make a student’s day might be the same as being thrown back into the water to have a second chance or get past that difficult period. As you read the story, please take a moment and stop to think about those students in your classes that might need a toss. And thanks for making a difference!
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young girl, and that what she was doing was not dancing at all. The girl was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?” The young girl paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.” “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the somewhat startled wise man. To this, the girl replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, “But, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
At this, the young girl bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, she said, “I made a difference to that one!”
This is actually a classic from 1979 written by Loren Eiseley, who has been hailed as a modern day Henry David Thoreau. Loren Eiseley was both a scientist and a poet, and to this day his writing is the subject of much discussion and inspiration. In this story he is the “wise man” touched by the innocence and determination of another soul.
“The Star Thrower” is a story of the power within each one of us to make a difference in the lives of others. And though it has appeared in many forms (sometimes it’s a native American man who is throwing the starfish into the sea, sometimes it’s a grandfather, or a young girl or boy) it is none the less a powerful reminder that we should be here for each other, and to seek to help, even in small ways, whenever we can.