The Starfish

For some reason, this story has been running through my head a lot lately:

“An old man was walking along the beach and saw in the distance a young boy who appeared to be dancing and gyrating at the ocean’s edge. As the man got closer, he realized that the boy was not dancing at all. The tide had gone out, beaching thousands and thousands of starfish. The boy was throwing starfish one after the other back into the ocean so that they might survive. starfish-beach

“Son, you can’t possibly throw all of those starfish back,” the old man said. “How can what you are doing possibly matter?”

As the boy threw yet another starfish back into the safety of the ocean, he replied, “It mattered to that one.”’

This isn’t a new story by any stretch of the imagination, but it’s always stuck with me, and as I said, it’s been running through my head lately. I’m not sure why, but I think it has something to do with the fact that in today’s modern society of hyper-connectedness there is often a lack of the basic things that truly bring people together—a smile, a kind word, a simple gesture.

I’m in no way tooting my own horn, but there are a lot of times I’ve felt frustrated . While I know I don’t do these things for acknowledgement or attention, the lack of response can cause me to ask, “How can what I’m doing possibly matter?” 

And there are times I know I’m on the other end, when I’m stuck in my head and blind to the simple things that could help pull me out, or at the very least, make me smile.

But while there is a lot of evidence to the contrary, I would like to think that at their core, most people are good. For whatever reason—be it a fear of rejection, simple selfishness, a lack of confidence—I think many people just keep a lot of that “good” inside instead of letting others know.

Which is really too bad, as people often underestimate the impact of a few kind words. That doesn’t mean everyone will care or that you have to go around farting rainbows and glitter, but it’s unfortunate when you stop trying, as those are probably the times when a little kindness is needed the most.

So the moral of the story is that every time you read a blog post you like and don’t comment, a starfish dies.

No, that’s not true. I’m kidding.

These things I know—you get what you give. It can be hard at times to remember, but there is a lot of good.

I remember the starfish.

I remember that to that one person, it could matter.

I remember that it matters to me.

This post is in response to the Studio30 Plus prompt:

“These things I know…”

What is one thing you “know?” It doesn’t have to be serious, as I’m in the mood to learn something new…

33 responses to “The Starfish

  1. i’ve been pondering some thoughts on this very subject as well. Thanks for reminding me of the starfish story!!

  2. Nice. I had not heard that one before! Now I have this uncontrollable urge NOT to kill the gnat that has been in my face all morning. (hope he enjoys it because it won’t last long…)

  3. Just in case a starfish DOES die if I don’t comment, I thought I had better comment. Because I like starfish. Oh, and your blog (but I’ve already told you that before).

    I have been thinking alot recently too, about making a difference and getting what you give, and you’re so right, it IS important – and I should continue to be mindful of it.

    Great post, Abby. I also followed the Studio30plus prompt, I found it pretty tough!

    • I’m not even a big fan of starfish, but they seem harmelss. Plus, I once painted one to look like a reindeer and made a cute-ass X-mas tree ornament. It’s hard for me to give sometimes–time and especially money–but you have to think paying it forward is really the way to go. WIth that said, I’m off to read your post.

  4. Abby! Omg Abby, I adore you! I love this story , It sits framed in my bathroom and honestly I read it every single day….to remind myself that “it made a difference to that one” ..and I live my life like that. Or at least I try to..and so I will comment here more often and I will visit more often…I will make a “difference”.

    Gosh I hope BlogHer sees this, it’s worthy of high praise and so are u!!!!

    Wow, this post changed me today…that sounds cheesy but it’s so true.

    • 1) That’s so neat you have it in your bathroom? I have Marilyn Monroe. A draw?
      2) BlogHer doesn’t know I exist, so unless by BlogHer you mean “my mom,” they won’t.
      3) 🙂

  5. When I was going through my divorce my therapist told me that story. I think it’s in a shrink book that they have to memorize or something. Anyway, instead of feeling sorry for myself I started working on who and what I wanted to be. Instead of this broken candy ass, my now wife and kids got a more confident man.

    Sometimes I write something, esp fiction, and think “damn, this is excellent,”. It will get like maybe 4 or 5 comments. None of them insightful. Then, I’ll write something that I’ll think is dumb or ridiculous about my dumb and ridiculous life and people who leave the most amazing remarks about how it helped them or whatever.

    Now that I’ve blogged on your blog, know this…..I loved reading your stuff.

  6. Is it bad that I’ve never heard the starfish story? Does it mean that I live in a cave or something? Anyways, I enjoyed it.

  7. Wow I’ve never heard that story! I love it though and I can already tell it will stick with me.
    (Did I just save a starfish??)

  8. I absolutely love this and agree 100%. I don’t think I’ve ever heard this story before, and I’m so happy you shared it.
    Love love love.

  9. i read that parable as a kid, and it has always resonated with me, thanks for making it a forefront today. have a great day!

  10. I’d never heard the starfish story before. It’s beautiful.
    And your post has made me think. I too often believe I have nothing worth saying. Perhaps I need to try a little harder.

    Thank you.

  11. Melanie The Spork Lover

    Lovely story at the beginning of the post. I really loved it. On my way in to work I have the goal of making everyone I walk past smile. I totally believe the little things matter.

    On my way back to my car Monday after work there was an elderly lady looking quite confused on the other side of the street. People were just walking past her not paying her any mind. I walked across and asked her if she needed help with something. She didn’t speak English very well but I was able to ascertain that she was trying to find a certain bus. I looked on my iPhone and told her that bus didn’t come anywhere near the street we were on. Then I walked her to lightrail and made sure she got on the train that would take her where she needed to get to the bus. I do these things without thinking. They are what I need to do to be able to look at myself in the mirror every morning. I also do them in the hope that someone I help will appreciate it so much that they, in turn, won’t just blindly walk past someone in need of help next time.

  12. What a beautiful story. I agree – people have forgotten what “have a nice day” or a tip of the old hat can mean. I’m going to start farting some rainbows and making some real connections. Thank you.

    • If only more people started farting rainbows, the world would be a much better place. You get it. Glitter would also be acceptable as an explosive from the ass.

  13. You could have totally passed that story off as your own since I had never heard of it before.

  14. Love that parable.

    Love that you linked it to writing.

    Love that I cyber-know you. In all your awesomeness.

    Love that you get that it matters.

  15. I’ve never heard that story before until now, but it does stay ingrained into your mind and heart. and I guess I’ll have to comment because I’m one of those who sometimes read, like but just leave without a comment. :-p

    I understand the power of a kind word. Especially when you put your heart and soul into a post, like you always do, Abby. I appreciate all of your thoughtful posts, and I’m not saying this out of my ass.

    Hope that put at least a tiny smile onto your face, dear Abby-Starfish. 🙂

    • I have a smile on my face most of the time, my friend, and this post had nothing to do with blogging (I read and rarely comment as well.) 😉 And you are one I know DOES always appreciate a kind word, written or said, and one who is genuine with her heart.

  16. I’ve actually never heard the starfish story before, but I swear I’d like to print this post and hand out a million copies to all my fellow employees at the hospital. You would think people in the medical profession would be…I don’t know HOSPITABLE and kind?, but I don’t know how many times each week that I speak to people that just ooze with negativity! So many people really are clueless as to how much a kind word can do for someone else’s day…and that moods are contagious…both good and bad ones!

  17. —I’ve always adored this story… thank you for reminding me about it… X

  18. I like starfish. I try to smile at strangers I pass. Some of them look at me like I’m a lunatic. Perhaps I need to practice my smile in the mirror. I also try to compliment at least one person a day. Again, strangers seem stunned sometimes. Some however, get so excited to gush about whatever it is I complimented them on. My husband doesn’t get it. I tell him you never know, they could have been having a crappy day, and maybe I made it a little better for them.

  19. I’d never let a poor starfish die (not that I would really care but then I’d look like a meany head just having read a post I really like and not commenting). Hugs 🙂

  20. Love. Sometimes it is hard to remember that there surely is “good” in everyone. I get so frustrated with this girl at work and it takes EVERYTHING in my power to not let it get to me after every little “dig” she makes. I don’t know how many times I’ve sighed and just said “it must be exhausting to consistently be so miserable all the time”. Because I just feel like anything other than “good” is unnatural and forced due to some underlying reason(s). Sigh…

  21. I love stories like this. and I love people who “get it”… who walk through this life with a perspective that it’s not all about me Me ME, and while you can’t possibly know where someone else is coming from at any given moment, you can know that they have their stuff too. A smile could MAKE their day.

  22. I had never heard the starfish story, and reading it gave me chills. You’re so right, Abby. It’s easy to forget these things sometimes, but you are so absolutely right. Thanks for the reminder.

  23. A beautiful fable 🙂

  24. This was fabulous! I always try and leave a comment on blogs I read because of the very reasons you gave. Sometimes I don’t, and feel a tad guilty. I realize it’s because I know how much they might mean to someone. Thanks for a great post. My first time here, and I’ll be stopping by again. Oh…and farting rainbows cracked me up! 🙂

  25. I found your site because I keep running into your name on other sites I read. Can I remember what these are right now? No, of course not. But I finally remembered to Google “Abby Has Issues” today, and I found this. (Actually, I found the farmer’s market one first, but I don’t go to them very often, and I’m not well versed enough in my etiquette to do more than read and tuck away for future use). Anyway, I’m new to blog-sharing, so thank you for introducing me to another really neat site. I like Studio 30 already!

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