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Parable of the Starfish March 28, 2016

Posted by Alex Sawit in Stuff in General.

By Alex Sawit

March 28, 2016




   Perhaps you’ve already heard the Parable of the Starfish.

   It’s a parable that I tell from time to time at Cyrano whenever the occasion of wine and friendship allows. It is a story that says what I believe about life, making it a story that I wish for all true friends of our little neighborhood wine shop to believe in too. As we say at Cyrano, we don’t have customers. We just have friends. And we like to make a difference in their lives, one friend at a time.

   I first encountered this story a long time ago. Unfortunately, not everyone knows how to tell it properly. Just yesterday, I read a different version of it on the web, and it is such a poor version that it squanders the power of the parable’s message. So I will re-tell the parable here and be as faithful as possible to the story that I remember.

   Here goes…



    [ SPOILER ALERT – The moral is that you should do what is good because it is good; you do what you can, then you let it go. Thus, even if you can’t make a difference for everyone, you can still choose to make a difference for anyone. ]



   A man was walking on the beach.

   It was a sunny day but just the day before, the beach had been battered by a freak storm. As the man kept walking on his path, he was confronted by the constant sight of marine debris strewn in front of him, all of which had been violently churned up by the raging winds and waves. What struck the man was the realization that most of the debris was actually made of hundreds upon hundreds of starfishes, which littered the length of the beach. Having been carried far away from the water by the storm, these starfishes were now stranded, doomed to perish under the blazing sun.

   It was then that the man noticed that in the distance ahead, a stranger was busy at work along the seashore. As the man continued walking, his every step drawing him closer, he observed the stranger going back and forth from the beach into the shallow water, each time returning to the shallows with something in his hands. Eventually the man arrived there and he walked up to the stranger to ask what was happening.

   “I’m returning the starfishes to the water,” said the stranger politely as he picked up yet another stranded starfish. “Otherwise, they’ll be dead in a few hours.”

   The man was astonished by the stranger’s answer. “But there are hundreds of them,” said the man to the stranger. “Maybe thousands.”

   “I know,” said the stranger as he carried the starfish with him towards the water.

   “But there’s no way you can save them all,” said the man with resignation. “Even at best, you can only save a few of them. How can what you’re doing possibly make a difference?”

   The stranger simply stood in the shallows, displaying the starfish in the palm of his hand as he gave his reply.

   “It makes a difference to this one,” said the stranger before placing it safely beneath the tide.







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