The parable of the starfish

(sorry, accidentally posted this to my old blog…)


I can’t remember how old I was the first time I heard this story. Probably ten or twelve. It’s stuck in my head ever since and I’ve told it a million times. I was talking last week with my friend Didier, a graduate student from Burundi who used to work at the same newsweekly I worked at in Bujumbura, having left just before I arrived. He and his wife, her brothers and a few of his friends and classmates have started a campaign to feed, clothe, house and provide activities for street kinds in Ngozi, his hometown. He was worried that the problem might be too wide for a dozen people, that housing and supplies and a loving host family might not be found for every kid.

I explained it to him this way.

A guy is walking along a beach at low tide and sees thousands of starfish, stranded on the sand by the tide. If they stay there, they will dry up and die. So the guy bends down and begins to through them back into the water, one by one.


A second guy comes up behind him. “What are you doing?” says the second guy. “There are thousands of them. You’ll never throw them all back. You’ll never make a real difference.”

The first guy calmly bends down, picks up another dying starfish and throws it back in the water.

“I made a difference to that one!”


About msmarguerite

Young Quebec City-based freelance journalist. once and future nomad. I blog about life, about travel, about things I notice and every so often about work. I enjoy language learning, singing, swing dancing, skating and...other stuff, sometimes. My heart is somewhere in East Africa, Haiti or Eastern Europe. English, français, русский, malo slovensko, un poco de espanol, um pouco de português ndiga ikirundi, mwen ap aprann kreyòl...
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2 Responses to The parable of the starfish

  1. Pingback: Be cool, stay in school (or at least, help others stay in school) | Ruby Pratka – Year of No Fear

  2. Pingback: Belated landfall | Ruby Pratka – Year of No Fear

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