Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
adapted from The Star Thrower, by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)
This story reminds me often, to slow down and recognize that every thing has an impact. You are making a difference no matter how insignificant it may seem in this moment and the actions and goodness you are doing now, might have ripple effects for years to come that you cannot possibly envision.
You may have read the story about Doobert the cat and how he inspired a technology platform and a mantra to work together to save more animals. What you haven’t read, is the story about how I came to be the caretaker of this wonderful animal and how making a difference with just one cat, started me on a journey to where I am today.
I encountered Doobert at a farm where a friend referred me to find my new companion. I already had one cat, Jeanluc, but felt that we both needed a new friend. The farmer where I adopted Doobert from had a simple way to control the continuing emergence of cats at his farm, and it didn’t involve spay and neuter. There were dozens of cats and kittens roaming around and seeing the overwhelming look in my eyes they brought me many to choose from and one that was the runt of the litter. An orange and white tabby that was so tiny he fit in the palm of my hand. They encouraged me to take “as many as you want” and warned me what happens to the ones left behind. But living in a one bedroom apartment, I knew I couldn’t take any more and had to tear myself away recognizing that I could only save one…though I wanted to save them all.
That one cat with his old soul, compassionate glance, unconditional love and boisterous meow went on to become the inspiration for Doobert.com. I was privileged enough to be his caretaker for 17 years and he saw my wife and I through many tumultuous times. To this day, seeing his image makes me smile and inspires me; hearing his name sends a warmth that envelops me with goodness; knowing that 15,000 people every month type his name into their browser humbles me beyond words. So the next time you feel like you are not doing enough, or wondering if your efforts make a difference remember this…
I was only able to save one starfish on the farm that day. And what a difference it made and will continue to make for years to come…