Making a Difference: The Parable of the Boy and the Starfish

A small boy lived by the ocean. He loved the creatures of the sea, especially the starfish, and spent much of his time exploring the seashore. One day he learned there would be a minus tide that would leave the starfish stranded on the sand. The day of the tide he went down to the beach and began picking up stranded starfish and tossing them back into the sea. An elderly man who lived next door came down to the beach to see what he was doing. “I’m saving the starfish,” the boy proudly declared. When the neighbor saw all of the stranded starfish, he shook his head and said “I’m sorry to disappoint you, young man, buf if you look down the beach one way, there are stranded starfish as far as the eye can see. And if you look down the beach the other way, it’s the same. One little boy like you isn’t going to make much of a difference.” The boy thought about this for a moment. Then he reached his small hand down to the sand, picked up a starfish, tossed it out into the ocean and said, “I sure made a difference for that one.”

Then, turning to face the old man, he kicked him squarely in the nuts. As the old man crumpled into the sand grasping his groin and groaning pitifully, the boy wagged his finger and calmly, but sternly said, “Don’t ever again try to deter someone in pursuit of a righteous cause, you cynical old bastard.” (The Prole Center addition to the story)

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