Thursday, February 18, 2010

The Starfish and Keeping Green

Recently, during a small group study at church, we read the following story:

"I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean's edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, far away motion. I saw a youth, bending and reaching and flailing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.

As I approached, I sadly realized that the youth was not dancing to the bay, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," the youth replied. "When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea."

As the youth explained, I surveyed the vast expanse of beach, strectching in both directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness of the youth's plan became clear to me and I countered, "But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference."

The youth paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, "I made a difference to that one."

I left the boy and went home, deep in thought of what the boy had said. I returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping the boy throw starfish in to the sea."  (Based on the story by Loren Eisley and retrieved from

Over the years I have struggled with the concept of living a green, sustainable life.  I'm not perfect.  In fact, oftentimes I wonder how much of a difference I'm really making.  Sometimes agonize over conflicting choices and try to make sure everything I eat and use is organize.  Other times I see those around me continuing to consume chemically-laced, over-processed, over-packaged product and I think I'm not making a bit of difference.  In fact, those around me are cancelling out the little things I do.  That's when I revert to buying conventional products.  Living a green life can be very difficult at times, especially where I live.  I have to go out of my way, literally, to find products that are gentle on the earth.  Many times I have to drive an hour from my home or order over the internet in order to purchase sustainable products.  Either way, it's very inconvenient.  However, I need to remind myself of the story of the boy and the starfish - each little effort really does matter.

(Photo from

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