One day a man was walking along the seashore. He noticed that during the night many seashells and starfish had washed upon the beach. Thoroughly enjoying the morning sun and cool sea air, the man walked for miles.

As he strolled along, he noticed a small figure dancing in the distance. It made him chuckle to think of someone celebrating life in such an uninhibited way. As he drew closer, however, it became apparent that the figure was not dancing. Instead, she seemed to be repeatedly performing some ritual.

He drew nearer still and noticed that the small figure was a child. She was methodically picking up starfish and tossing them into the surf. He paused for a moment, puzzled, then asked, “Why are you throwing these starfish?”

“It’s high tide,” she replied, “If I leave them on the beach, the sun will soon dry them and they will die. I am throwing them into the ocean so they can live.” The man considered her actions, impressed with the child’s thoughtfulness. Then he motioned up and down the miles of the beach. “There must be thousands of starfish along here,” he said, “you cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young girl stopped. Her face darkened. She chewed thoughtfully on her lower lip, “You’re probably right,” she said softly. She looked down at the sand. Then she leaned over, carefully picked up another starfish, pulled back and arched it gently into the sea.

With a tone of gentle defiance, she said, “But I made a difference for that one.”

A story originally described by “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley

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