Words have great power.  They can evoke emotions that make you laugh with joy, scream with anger, cry in remembrance, or break your heart.  This week there were words that broke my heart.  These words, shared by a friend, told the story of the pain that some children have to live with everyday.  Situations that no child should have to endure were described with simple words. It’s not just children that have to endure hardship but there are great numbers of mistreated and abandoned dogs and cats that need help.  I felt discouraged because I want to make things better for all the children and animals that are suffering, but that’s an impossible task.  There’s just too many!

But then a familiar story came to my mind.  A story I have read many times through the years, and as a teacher I have read this story to many children. To me this short little story should remain timeless and should be shared through the ages.  Why?  Because it inspires, and it gives us hope.  Hope is one of the greatest gifts you can give someone.  It lifts us out of discouragement with the promise that tomorrow can be better.

By now you may be wondering what story I’m referring to.  It is a short story; in fact it is less than 200 words.  Like I said, words can be powerful.  Here it is.

The Starfish Story

A businessman was on vacation, walking along the beach, and saw a young boy.

All along the shore were starfish that had washed up from the tide, and were likely to die in the hot sun.

The boy walked along the shore and reached down here and there to pick up a starfish and toss it back into the ocean.

The businessman, so accustomed to efficiency, walked up to the boy to tell him about his nonsensical ways.

“I’ve noticed what you’ve been doing, son. You have a warm heart and I know you mean well, but there’s so many starfish dying on beaches all over the world. I’m sure you could do something better with your time. Do you really think this is going to make a difference?”

The boy glanced up at the man, and looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the beautiful starfish and tossed it back into the ocean, and said, “It made a difference to that one”.

– Adapted from “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley (1907 – 1977)

This story has a very simple but yet profound message for all of us.  Don’t get discouraged because you can’t help everyone who’s hurting, just make a difference to someone.  All the pain and sorrow cannot be extinguished in one single act but the world can be changed one life at a time. This is what we believe as teachers, as pet owners of rescued dogs, and as human beings, “It made a difference to that one”.

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