Summertime reminds me of one of my favorite stories, the Starfish Story. Many people who have adopted, rescued or fostered an animal will relate deeply to its simple and empowering message, one that's great to share with children. The story is attributed to the writer Loren Eiseley, who lived and wrote between 1907 and 1977, but has seen many variations since its original appearance. Enjoy!
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, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
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." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man. 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 wise man commented, "But young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach, and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!" At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean.
As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
Say no more!
Dr. Pia Salk
P.S. Keep in mind that starfish (sea stars) are living beings. It's great fun for kids to collect shells on the beach but it's important for them to understand what they can and cannot take home. It's helpful to explain the difference between a shell that once housed a creature but is no longer in use, and a sea star that is living and needs to be back in water to and take care of his or her family. Kids can quickly grasp such concepts, and taking part in protecting a starfish can be very rewarding for them.