The Starfish Story
Original Story by Loren Eisley
One day a man was walking along the beach, when he noticed a boy hurriedly picking up and gently throwing things into the ocean.
Approaching the boy, he asked, ‘Young man, what are you doing?’
The boy replied, ‘Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.’
The man laughed to himself and said, ‘Don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make any difference!’
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, ‘I made a difference to that one.’
After reading this story I started thinking: How often do things happen that make us react like the man? – ‘It’s too hard, how can I do anything?’ ‘I can’t make a difference.’ But then God reminded me of two people in the Bible who did make a difference, even though things looked impossible and it didn’t look like they had much to offer.
First, in John 6:1–13, we can read the story of Jesus feeding the five thousand. That boy probably thought the same: ‘How can my packed lunch of five loaves and two fishes possibly make a difference here?’ However he was willing to try and he gave his lunch to Jesus and, of course, it did feed all those people with 12 baskets of food left over!
Then in 2 Kings 5 we find the story of Naaman and the little maid. The little maid, a young girl probably only nine or ten years old, had been taken from her homeland to a strange country to live in a strange house as the maid of a woman whose husband, Naaman, had developed leprosy, a terrible and incurable disease. Surely after all that she had been through the little maid could be forgiven for just wanting to keep her head down, do her job and not really care about what happened to her master, but she did care. She cared enough to want to make a difference. She told her mistress what Naaman should do to be healed (v.3) and after some reluctance we are told he was finally healed (v.14).
Here were two people who were willing to follow God’s leading and make a difference; because of a boy and his packed lunch 5,000 people were fed and because of a little girl a man was restored and healed of leprosy.
Next time something happens and you’re not sure if you can make a difference, remember the boy and the stranded starfish and let God use you to make a difference, who knows where it will lead!