The Starfish Story: You Can Make a Difference

The following is one of my favourite stories (author unknown) that never fails to inspire me in sustaining my belief in what I do as a Christ-follower, regardless of how insignificant it may seem to the eyes of others.

While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.

He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”

The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”

To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”

Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”

The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”

34 thoughts on “The Starfish Story: You Can Make a Difference

    1. Ok. This short story reminds me of Frankenstein. For all of you who never bothered to actually read the book, I’ll sum it up. Frankenstein is pretty much a warning about the dangers of going too far for what you want. Basically be careful about your actual intentions, because even the best intentions can go awry.
      Now… why does this story remind me of Frankenstein?
      The reason is simple, scroll up and look at the picture made. This is a real starfish on a fake ocean setting. The only problem is it’s a dead starfish. One of the many starfish which was not saved. Why was it not saved? For no reason but to create a lovely setting for this story. You have a wonderful story about making a difference and doing something for a good reason. Now, what is it’s purpose now? It’s dead and for nothing more than for the story.
      Such a wonderful reason for putting to death a wonderful creature.
      It’s like killing a baby seal and wearing a baby seal coat while hosting a meeting about how terrible it is to take advantage of defenseless creatures.
      It’s the complete opposite of the kids attempt.
      The intention was to save them to make a difference.Now they are dying en masse to satisfy people who want to post a dead starfish on the wall next to this story.
      It’s seems sweet until you see the end effect.
      The boy respects life. His actions and his intentions respect life. Yours don’t.

      On a different note perhaps you should check out slave/master. It’s an interesting philosophy

      the slave feels that intentions serves the people the best/ master feels that the outcome serves the people the best.

      If we are going to put god in this discussion, why don’t you ask yourself:
      Would he be happier at your intentions based on the story? or is he looking for the outcome based on the story?

      It’s great to have decent intentions, but if those intentions help no one, save nothing, make no difference whatsoever… then what’s the point?

      It’s like the creation of christianity.
      The intention was to honor god and his creation, ‘life, the universe and everything’.
      Unfortunately, the actual outcome hasn’t quite gone to plan has it?
      I guess that’s the real problem with christianity isn’t it?
      You put all of your effort into making a great second life for yourself, and no effort into improving your own life.

      1. That was pretty funny. (seriously, not sarcastically)
        But maybe it was a picture of an already dead starfish. Maybe someone just found it on the internet. It’s not like a starfish dies every time someone posts the story. It’s okay to save starfish, but it’s stupid to make a Jesus lesson out of every cute story on the internet. So I see your point.

      2. I really feel sad for you. You obviously haven’t felt the joy and love to know that you are :1. a child of God, made in His image, 2: ever felt the joy that comes when you can do a little something to help someone else. I testify to you that God is real, He is our Father in Heaven, He loves you and this time on earth is just a split second in eternity. We are spiritual beings having a physical experience not the other way around. Please ask God if he is real. He will answer you.

  1. Helloo..I think your life story is really quite inspiring. No matter what my stand is on religions right now, just wanna say ‘Keep running for Jesus!’


  2. Like James quoted the Bible, God intend salvation for all men – that is God’s godwill. But you know like picking starfish – you can only do your best. The thing is there is time for every thing. Force your way through, is no point.

  3. Great story, works well at a spiritual level – but not political! These days is seems that the human race isn’t managing to organize itself in ways that do good for large numbers of people. Our voluntary efforts can make a difference but only to a point. For example, they won’t solve global warming.

  4. I was planning to use this one for my VBS this summer. As I was reading the comments, I just wanted to say that, yes one person can make a difference; in sharing Christ, and in other aspects of life. Just like the older gentleman, people do see what you do and some even try to imitate you. If it’s global warming you are concerned about, then do your part, people will follow.

  5. Sounds like people are focusing on the great man
    doing a great job…………I agree………….
    We need also remember THE STARFISH………the one someone is helping………..There lies the saved, or helped life: it does make a difference to
    Let’s all keep on helping !!! !!! !

  6. this story doesn’t have a thing to do with religion. It has to do only with the idea that one action can make a difference that seems small to the world, but to that starfish it meas the world.

  7. I feel the same, this summer I decided to collect all the plastic from the beach, put them in a plastic bag and thake them away from the ocean and the beach, I made a difference for the beach Xpuha in Mexico for 15 days.
    I will do the same in every beach I will go and only myself would save tones of lifes!!!

  8. I am an active volunteer with an animal rescue group. Sometimes I get discouraged that I am only able to help a few animals, versus the huge numbers of animals that I can’t help. In this story, I am the person picking up the starfish and the starfish are the animals I have rescued. I always feel better after I read it.

  9. Guys, I am sorry, I feel you are missing the point. This story is not about God, Jesus, Muhamad, Moshe, Abraham or what you feel, how the story mekes you feel or what kind of person it makes you believe you are. It is about saving the starfish for the sake of the starfish, not yours or your religion.
    Forget all, save the starfish, move on. No glory, no speech.



  10. According to God’s word, we are our brother’s keeper. This is a metaphor that lets us know we can make a difference in the lives of other people. It might not be religous, but it is the behavior of a person who is Christ-like.

    1. I’m an atheist and I spend a lot of time helping people and trying to make a difference. Just because you are a christ follower doesn’t mean you get a free ticket of automatically being good and helpful.

  11. No, Christine, this behavior existed before Jesus, it exists in places where peone have not heard of Jesus, and it will continue to exist, whether the story of Jesus is there or not. It’s called “being a good person” and it’s a mandate in all religions.


    1. Yep. Totally agree. I wish I could have read this without seeing all this ridiculous christ stuff.

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  14. Please STOP telling this story. Many sea Stars are inter tidal creatures, meaning they live between the low and high tide line. These animals the boy is throwing back are suppose to be there. He is picking up an animal from it’s home and throwing it god knows where. Chances are very good that a sea star thrown randomly into the ocean will not survive. This is a terrible thing to encourage children to do. When anywhere in nature teach them to look and enjoy, but most importantly not to touch anything.

  15. This is a beautiful story and is illustrative of what we born again christians are commanded and priveledged to do: Honoring Jesus and loving others and getting the Gospel out to people so they can be saved.

    I invite and welcome all unbelievers reading this to be saved so you can live in the beautiful Heaven forever with Jesus and not end up in the burning hellfire place of torment where satan and the devils will be. I love you all.

  16. I totally agree with Mushet. Basically the story isn’t about religion but per se. However we are to believe, as born again Christians, that we are to help others (starfishes). That specific help is geared towards giving them the message of Jesus’s coming to earth to save EVERYONE (represented as the one who throws them back to safety). God loves everyone and we all sin, so the only way to be saved is to believe in the one who throws you back into the cool water of love and grace.

  17. Humanity is so incredibly diverse. It’s wonderful to see how we can all interpret a simple story in so many different ways. It seems the central thought is amongst millions of humans, lending a hand to one may appear to help only “one”, but if every one of the millions tried to help only “one” then the one would be the all and “all” would be one. It’s a small world after all.

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