I made a difference to that one.

I woke early, as I often did, just before sunrise, to walk by the ocean's edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint far away motion. I saw a youth, bending and reaching and failing arms, dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day, soon to begin. As I approached, I sadly realized that the youth was not dancing to the day, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing to heave it back into the sea. I asked the youth the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the shore and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," the young youth replied. "When the sun rises, they will all die unless I throw them back to the sea."

As the youth explained, the vast expanse of beach stretching in both directions beyond my sight. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. The hopelessness of the youth's effort became clear to me and I countered, "But there are more starfish on this beach then you can ever save before the sun comes up. Surely you can't expect to make a difference."

The youth paused briefly to consider my words, bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me, he then simply said, "I made a difference to that one."