Adapted from 'The Star Thrower' by Loren Eiseley 1907-1977
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
Last night on my way home from the jail I had an experience that was very much like catching starfish and throwing them into the sea. . .
I stopped at Meijer's grocery store to pick up some fruit for Jackie and my lunches. I typically park on the north end of the building. There are three or four parking spaces right next to the building there. It might be a few steps further away than what I could find in the large parking lot, but I don't have to cross any lanes of traffic while walking into or out of the store and the building gives a little shelter from the wind and snow or rain if the weather is bad. That is typically where I park. Further to the north of the store is a little retention pond where the water from the parking lot runs off. . . as I walked into the store, I began noticing little newly transformed toads hopping on the sidewalk. These were very small little fellows, just out of the tadpole stage, about the size of a small pea. . . . and there were hundreds of them. They were making the initial voyage of their life from the little retention pond of their spawning. They were heading for hundreds of yards of asphalt. . .filled with cars, pedestrians, and shopping carts. . . really a direction of disaster for them.
I did my shopping with these little toads on my mind. On my way out of the store I found an empty plastic water jug that had a rip in the bottom, that would make a perfect little toad catching container, so I spent close to the next hour catching these wee little toads. My miniature herd had not yet made it up to the store entrance. They were congregated along the store wall to where the shopping carts were stored outside. I cleaned the entire sidewalk of them. At one point I almost gave up and then I remembered the starfish story that I related above. I've been praying to God, asking Him to please help me be a better man. I knew that I couldn't save all the little toads, but while shopping I had made it my goal to catch all the ones between my car and the shopping carts. Thinking of my prayer to God, I decided I was going to complete my goal of cleaning them up regardless of any inconvenience or discomfort on my part. I had made a commitment and I was going to follow it through to completion.
I was kind of hunched over crab walking with my jug in one hand catching toads with the other and periodically getting up to pull my shopping cart with groceries along behind me. It was humid from the recent rains and I grew very hot and had sweat dripping off my face. . . at one point three girls, I suppose from the neighborhood behind the store, walked by. They were probably 10-12 years old and though they passed within four or five feet, I don't think any of them looked directly at me, but I could see them very much peering out of the corners of their eyes trying to figure out what that 50 something year old man was crawling around, catching and putting into an empty milk jug. . .I finished my self-imposed task. The sidewalk was toad-free when I stopped.
When I got in the car, I called Jackie and told her if she guessed for 50 years she would never come up with what I had with me as I drove home. . . When I told her I had hundreds and hundreds of tiny little toads in a jug on my lap she laughed and agreed. . . When I got home, I let them go all around the yard, in our various little gardens and plantings in our yard, around the pond, in the back in the pine trees. . . I said little prayers and thanked God as I released them. . . I have no idea how many there were. I would say the jug was about 1/8th full, about a solid pint of toads I would guess. . . many hundreds anyway.
The way of nature is that for every thousand little toads maybe only a couple (if that) are still alive a year later, but at least in my yard they do not face certain death from being smashed by cars, etc., they will make their own decisions, fight their own battles, struggle to survive with at least a small chance of surviving. . .there are many parallels with ministry. . . the world says much of what we do is foolishness, hopeless. . .of no use. . .not many of the seeds we plant will ever find good ground. . . but at least we must try, at least give them a chance to avoid certain death. . .
Let us not weary of doing good. . . in spite of what the world thinks. . .
I love you God. . .
I love you all. . .