The Old Man and the Starfish

At the beginning of the school year, Cristo Rey’s principal gave each teacher a coffee mug. At first, I was a bit puzzled, if not pleasantly surprised, to receive this gift, but after I opened it up and read what was on the mug, I realized the thinking behind it. Here’s what it said:

The Old Man and the Starfish

Every day, an old man walked the beach with a pail, picking up starfish that had been washed i by the tide, and throwing them back into the sea.

One day a young boy stopped the old man and asked, “Why do you throw the starfish back? It doesn’t matter. They will only wash up on the shore again tomorrow.”

The old man picked a starfish out of his pail, threw it as far as he could into the sea, and replied, “It mattered to that one.”

So, when you’re frustrated and wondering, “What difference can I make?” remember this story. We may not be able to save the world or every starfish and the starfish may be back on the beach tomorrow, but we can make a difference to many today. I like to think that the boy, inspired, joined the old man and began to throw the starfish back, doubling the starfish saved.

Imagine how many starfish we could help if we all joined the old man.


5 Responses to The Old Man and the Starfish

  1. Tom,

    This post reminds me of the Mother Teresa quote “We can’t do great things on this earth, only small things with great love.” I don’t believe we are all called to be saints or to spend our entire lives in service doing extraordinary deeds. But I think we are each called to act with great love whenever possible, even in all the small things, because a smile, merely listening to someone, and other small gestures of kindness can certainly go a long way and help alot of starfish 🙂


    • Tom O'Keefe says:

      You and Mother Theresa are absolutely right, Steve. It’s amazing how even a small gesture of love and caring can go so far for someone.

      Thanks for stopping by and commenting!


  2. sewwhatsarahs says:

    I like when you post inspiring things. I’m going to make an effort to help a starfish today.

  3. This is one of my favorite parables (or is it just a story?) Tom. Thanks for sharing this thought today and for being such a light to all those around you!!

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