One day a philosopher was walking along the beach when he noticed a figure that appeared to be dancing in the distance. As he got closer, he realized the figure was that of a young man picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the young man, he asked, "What are you doing?"
The young man replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean. The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
"But young man" , the philosopher said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it? You can't possibly make a difference!"
After listening politely, the young man bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it into the surf. Then, smiling at the philosopher, he said, "I made a difference for that one."
His response surprised the man. He was upset. He didn't know how to reply. So instead, he turned away and walked back to his writings. All day long as he wrote, the image of that young man haunted him until he realized that he the philosopher had missed the essential nature of the young man's actions. Because he realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not simply to be an observer of the universe and watch it pass by, but was choosing to be an actor in the universe and make a difference. He was embarrassed.
That night he went to bed, troubled. When morning came the philosopher went to the beach and found the young man. And with him he spent the rest of the morning throwing starfish in the ocean. Afterwards he wrote:
"Vision without action is merely a dream.
Action without vision just passes the time.
Vision with action can change the world."
We have all been gifted with the ability to make a difference. And if we can, like that young man, become aware of that gift, we gain through the strength of our vision the power to shape the future.
Adapted from "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley.
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