The Starfish Thrower

Long ago and far away, in an enchanted place called the Cape of Cod, I was inspired by Loren Eiseley to walk along the  Beach of Naussette  early one morning, continuing far past where other strollers might venture.  As I rounded a bend I came upon a young woman standing and staring at something in the sand. Eventually she bent over with all of the poise and grace of a yogi breathing life into an asana.  She bent, lifted something and flung it as far into the breaking surf as she could. I followed her for a while quietly staying back and watching as she repeated her practice.

Eventually I let myself catch up with her, and I could then see that she was reaching for a starfish.  “It’s alive.” I ventured.

“Yes.” She replied, and with astonishing poise, grace, and gentleness, she reached down, lifted it and cast it back into the waves. “It may live if the undertow is strong enough.”

As she spoke she continued to walk along the wave line carefully searching the sand for starfish. Finding another she reached for it, lifted and threw, continuing her practice even as I watched.

“But there are so many, and you are just one person. You can never succeed at saving them all.  What difference do these little actions make?” I thought I was muttering quietly to myself as I turned and walked back, taken with the momentous enormity of trying to save all the dying starfish along that vast expanse of coastline, feeling the overwhelming frustration of her inevitable failure.

And then I heard her equally quiet, unexpected reply. She said, “Indeed I am just one person, and this starfish is just one starfish. What I do matters very much to this one starfish. I am not trying to save them all, just this one, just each one, one at a time. For this one starfish I may well be successful. One small success at a time, over time matters very much.”

And in that brief interchange I was re-minded once more of the importance of being present to the moment. Yes a long term vision is important. Yes we need to plan and have goals. But when it all comes down to it, there is only this moment. This wonderful moment. Paul Simon had it right: love the one you’re with — love this moment. Even while remembering the interdependence and interconnection of all.

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