The Star Thrower *
Joel Barker

The following story was inspired by the writing of Loren Eiseley.  Eiseley was a very special person because he combined the best of two cultures.  He was a scientist and a poet.  And from those two perspectives he wrote insightfully and beautifully about the world and our role in it.

Once upon a time, there was a wise man, much like Eiseley himself,
who used to go to the ocean to do his writing.
He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day he was walking along the shore.
As he looked down the beach,
he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself to think of someone who would dance to the day.
So he began to walk faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man
and the young man wasn't dancing,
but instead he was reaching down to the shore,
picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he called out, "Good morning! What are you doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied
"Throwing starfish into the ocean."

"I guess I should have asked,
Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"

"The sun is up and the tide is going out.
And if I don't throw them in they'll die."

"But young man, don't you realize
that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it.
You can't possibly make a difference!"

The young man listened politely,
then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the sea,
past the breaking waves.
"It 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 the cottage to begin his writings.

All day long as he wrote, the image of the young man haunted him.
He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted.
Finally, late in the afternoon
he realized that he the scientist, he the poet,
had missed out on the essential nature of the young man's actions.
Because he realized that what the young man was doing
was choosing not to be an observer in 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 the morning came he awoke
knowing that he had to do something.
So he got up, put on his clothes,
went to the beach and found the young man.
And with him he spent the rest of the morning
throwing starfish into the ocean.

You see, what that young man's actions represent
is something that is special in each and everyone of us.
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.

And that is your challenge.  And that is my challenge.
We must each find our starfish.
And if we throw our stars wisely and well,
I have no question that the 21st century
is going to be a wonderful place.

reprinted on with special permission by Joel Barker

(c) 1990, Joel Barker.  All International Rights Reserved.
This story may not be used, copied, printed, or duplicated in any manner

without the express written permission of Joel Barker.

* Special note:  This story has been plagiarized by several other people since Mr. Barker first shared it with some high school graduates in 1978 without giving him the proper acknowledgment and credit.  It is ONLY Mr. Barker's star thrower story in which the young man speaks and says, "It made a difference for that one."  These others claim they got their story from Loren Eiseley, but they obviously never even read the citation since at no time does the young man say anything.  In fact, the phrase never appears anywhere in Eiseley's story.  Mr. Barker received special permission from his widow to modify the story that way, and I received special permission from Mr. Barker to use his story on this website if I used it in its entirety.  ALL other versions of this story, especially all other versions with the "It made a difference for that one" are counterfeits.

So please, if you desire to share this wonderful story with others, have the courtesy to give full acknowledgment and credit to its original author, Mr. Joel Barker.

Thank you!  - Jace


Copyright © 2005-2013, Jace Carlton.  All International Rights Reserved.