This story exists in many forms and has been told and retold for decades. It is called "The Star Thrower" (or "starfish story") and is part of a 16-page essay of the same name by Loren Eiseley (1907–1977), published in 1969. I love it and have used it in this blog at least twice before (the last time was in 2010), but it bears repeating. I am using it today primarily for me. It is so easy here to get overwhelmed by the poverty, disease, hunger, and even church politics that it seems we will never make even the tiniest dent in the things that need to be done. That’s when we get depressed, and, as we are not able to get Prozac or whatever the current anti-depressant of choice is, we have to climb back up out of our “slough of despair” (as John Bunyan calls it) on our own. This story always, and I mean always, helps. Here it is as it was first written. No matter what version you have heard, the message is the same, and one that we each need to keep in our heart.
“While wandering a deserted beach at dawn, stagnant in my work, I saw a man in the distance bending and throwing as he walked the endless stretch toward me. As he came near, I could see that he was throwing starfish, abandoned on the sand by the tide, back into the sea. When he was close enough I asked him why he was working so hard at this strange task. He said that the sun would dry the starfish and they would die. I said to him that I thought he was foolish. There were thousands of starfish on miles and miles of beach. One man alone could never make a difference. He smiled as he picked up the next starfish. Hurling it far into the sea he said, "It makes a difference for this one." I abandoned my writing and spent the morning throwing starfish.”
For us, the children here are the starfish, and we are saving as many as we can, one at a time, because it matters. Nuff said.