You may know the story of the old man walking on the beach early one morning. A storm had blown through overnight and the beach was littered with thousands of starfish as far as he could see in both directions. Continuing his walk, he noticed a small boy in the distance. As the boy walked along he would stop occasionally, bend down to pick up a starfish, and toss it into the ocean water.
“What are you doing?” the old man asked when he came closer to where the boy stood.
The boy looked up at the old man and replied, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean. There was a big storm last night that washed them up on the shore. Now that the tide is going out they can’t get back in the water by themselves and they’ll die if I don’t throw them back in.”
“Son, there are probably ten thousand starfish on this beach,” the old man scoffed. “You can’t save them all. Even if you worked all day, you’re really not going to be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down again, picked up another starfish, and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. He smiled at the old man and answered, “It made a difference to that one.”
So, who is your starfish?
I’m willing to bet there’s one around you somewhere. For me at this moment it may be the friend I discovered in a homeless shelter a few nights ago. I can’t solve homelessness even for my immediate community but I’m determined to do something for my friend. At other times it’s been less dire, such as someone who asked what it takes to be in my line of work and what he/she should do to get the necessary experience.
Your starfish might be someone who’s struggled or stumbled in his/her career whom you might be in a position to offer a job or career advice. Perhaps you can introduce someone to your network as they look for a better opportunity. Or maybe you can show a little patience to a young co-worker and mentor him/her in how to succeed in your profession.
No, you probably can’t save all of them, but you absolutely can make a difference to at least one person. Keep your eyes open, look around, and I bet you’ll find your starfish.