The Starfish

I have always loved this story (source unknown):

THE STARFISH POEMSusan and Starfish, June 2011
Once upon a time there was a wise man 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 in the ocean.”  The wise man then asked, “Why are you throwing starfish in 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 and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

When I was visiting my brother earlier this week and found this starfish stranded on the beach, I knew what I had to do, and what I had to remember.  It’s not about making a splash or being seen as an expert or anything else.  It’s about making a difference, to one person, today.

That’s all I want to do.

Today I’m making a gallery of women in planetary science on Pinterest, in the hope that one little girl somewhere, when she’s just about had enough of the boys teasing and ignoring her all at once, will find it, and realize that there are other girls like her who love science, who love nature, who love looking up at the stars, or who want to figure out how things work more than anything else — and when she grows up, or perhaps before, she will find them.

She will work hard and stay focused, and not get discouraged, and she will be able to do the work she loves.

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20 Responses to The Starfish

  1. Stimey says:

    I’ve heard this story before, but for some reason, today it made me cry. It’s beautiful and really so, so true. Thank you so much for reminding me of this story today. And thank you also for encouraging women and girls in science. You’ve made a difference to a lot of starfish.

  2. Amelie says:

    Great story, Susan, thanks for sharing.
    And yes, these girls and women are out there — I have one of them as my mentor now, and that is totally awesome. Or, as your story puts it, makes a difference.

  3. Linda Lawrence says:

    We love the picture!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. marty says:

    I forgot to tell you that one of my students told me last week that she wants to be an astrobiologist when she grows up. I don’t even know if that’s a real thing, but she told me that she wants to study life in space.

    It was so cool to be able to send her to Women in Planetary Science. I showed her the list of 52 women and told her to start reading :)

    You are doing great things. I’m so proud of you.

  5. NYFriend says:

    Love it. Just love it. (and yea for the little starfish :) :) :) )

    A touching memory for your trip. I hope you are enjoying yourself, and your family too. I just love the rocks in the background of your picture too.

    (*Thanks for posting – I’ve been wondering how you were since things were quiet around here. I was just about to contact you directly – gasp!) ;)

  6. toby says:

    Susan,
    I looked up the source – and it’s Loren Eiseley, the anthropologist and natural science writer. Thanks for sharing it!
    Toby

  7. Elaine says:

    I have always loved this story. Thanks for the reminder. What a great thing to carry with me into this next season.

  8. Eve W. says:

    Thanks for the story. It’s definitely inspiring!

  9. Becky W says:

    I was inspired by the post of friends and colleagues exploring the mysteries of nature. Can not wait to share that with my daughter. Thanks for a beautiful gift, Susan!

  10. Angela says:

    I LOVE it! Just when I’m feeling jaded and beat down, I happened across this post in my feed reader and opened the link. To see all those beautiful women who are living their dream despite all the hurdles….It just touched me so much. I have two 1 year old daughters and I will definitely be showing them this and other resources like this when they’re older. I hope they’ll know they can do anything they want to do.

  11. Morra says:

    Susan I love this gallery idea! Heck, I am going to reference the gallery when I’m feeling defeated.

  12. elesha says:

    My Lap top has been having repairs so I have not been on here as much. Glad you se you are enjoying your summer. And you look about 25 years old. You have a very young and youthful face. And I really like you hair like this. Sassy :)

  13. {sue} says:

    I’ve never heard the starfish story. Thank you!

  14. Ruthie from California says:

    I love science! I love nature! I love looking at the stars and lie out with my kids for every meteor shower that comes our way! I hope that I have passed on to them a love of nature and of the God who made it.

  15. LOVE THIS! I adore that story and think it is so important to remember when you are working hard (for anything!) and feeling like you aren’t really making a difference…you are! I love the picture, especially.

  16. Jo Ashline says:

    Wonderful. And even more wonderful is that you shared this story with us! You are a beacon of strength for others, and I not only admire you, but I am inspired by you.

    You made a difference in THIS starfish’s life, today.

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