A note from Karen: I originally read this story in Chicken Soup for the Soul. Further research indicated that this story originally appeared in The Star Thrower by
A friend of ours was walking down a deserted Mexican beach at sunset. As he walked along, he began to see another man in the distance. As he grew nearer, he noticed that the local native kept leaning down, picking something up, and throwing it out into the water. Time and again he kept hurling things into the ocean.
As our friend approach even closer, he noticed that the man was picking up starfish that had been washed up on the beach, and, one at a time, he was throwing them into the water.
Our friend was puzzled. He approached the man and said, “Good evening, friend. I was wondering what you are doing.”
“I’m throwing these starfish back into the ocean. You see, it’s low tide right now and all of these starfish have been washed up onto the shore. If I don’t throw them back into the ocean they’ll die.”
“I understand,” our friend replied, “but there must be thousands of starfish on this beach. You can’t possibly get to all of them. There are simply too many, and don’t you realize it is probably happening on hundreds of beaches all up and down the coast? Can’t you see that you can’t possibly make a difference?”
The local native smiled, bent down, and picked up yet another starfish, and as he threw it back into the sea, he replied, “Made a difference to that one!”