Fall 2007

Making A Difference - Saving Starfish

Studies show that one of the main reasons people volunteer or make financial donations is that they want to make a difference. Yet sometimes the challenges of society may seem so overwhelming that we might wonder how our small contribution can make a difference. This story of the young boy saving starfish is often told to show how one person can make a difference. This version can be tied into a discussion of what students did on their summer vacations.

The Story
There once was a young boy who went to the beach for vacation with his family. He was sad to see that every day as the tide went out, hundreds of starfish were left to dry up and die on the beach. Each day he would run along the beach, looking for starfish and throw them back into the water. His parents, frustrated that he was not building sandcastles and splashing in the water as they expected, tried to discourage this behavior.

As they walked along the beach with him, searching for starfish, his mother said, “Why are you doing this? When we go home, there will be no one to do it. What difference does it make?"

His father added, “You are wasting your time. Think of all the starfish that get washed up on beaches all over the world every day. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The little boy stubbornly picked up one more starfish, threw it back out to sea, turned to his parents and said, “I made a difference for that one!”

Follow-Up Discussion

  • Ask students to talk about situations in society that might seem overwhelming. Ideas might include world hunger, pollution, war, or illness.
  • Now ask them to think about ways they could make a difference for one person or in one small way for each of the situations they have identified. Ideas might include buying one can of soup a week to save for Thanksgiving food drives, or picking up trash, or sending cards to a soldier, or participating in a walk to end a disease.
  • If feasible, your students may want to adopt their own “starfish” project for the year. You will be amazed at how much of a difference you can make!

More Stories

For more great stewardship stories to use throughout the year, go to www.luthersem.edu/stewardship and check out the stewardship resources of Luther Seminary. Click on “Explore Our Database” to access the seminary’s extensive collection of stewardship stories, humor, quotes, worship ideas, and more.