An old man had a habit of early morning walks on the beach. One day, as he looked along the shore, he saw a human figure moving like a dancer. As he came closer he saw it was a young woman who was not dancing but reaching down to the sand, picking up starfish and gently throwing them into the ocean.

“Young lady,” he asked, “why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

“The sun is up, and the tide is going out. If I do not throw them into the ocean they will die.”

“But young lady, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.”

The young woman listened politely and then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the breaking waves, saying: “It made a big difference to that one.”


*The Starfish Greathearts Foundation has adapted this story from The Star Thrower by Loren Eiseley (1907-1977), a celebrated American anthropologist, educator, philosopher, and natural science writer. His story, which was part of a longer essay, has been adapted for motivational speeches, religious parables and humanitarian causes.