The Starfish Story

Posted by Pia

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!

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Miss Kona and her dad on a beach in San Francisco. Photo by ktnevin.

1 Miss Kona and her dad on a beach in San Francisco. Photo by ktnevin.

Riley and Bailey, shelter mutts from San Diego, love their time together at the beach!

2 Riley and Bailey, shelter mutts from San Diego, love their time together at the beach!

Echo, a corgi from Puyallup, Washington, and his Labrador buddy love to play on the beach. A starfish would likely look like a squeaky toy to pooches, so it's best to intervene and throw the starfish back to safety in the ocean.

3 Echo, a corgi from Puyallup, Washington, and his Labrador buddy love to play on the beach. A starfish would likely look like a squeaky toy to pooches, so it's best to intervene and throw the starfish back to safety in the ocean.

You can make a starfish wash mitt with a child -- a great opportunity to tell the whole Starfish Story! (See link to craft below)

4 You can make a starfish wash mitt with a child -- a great opportunity to tell the whole Starfish Story! (See link to craft below)


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!
In Kinship,
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.

Try Martha's Starfish Wash Mitt Craft

See More Pets on the Beach!

Comments (11)

  • Dr. Pia,
    Such a special story. I think I will suggest to Mom to write out the poem and make some mitts for some children we know, for Christmas. You always have the best info Dr. Pia. Love you!!!
    Love & licks,
    Basil

  • That is the perfect way to start my Thursday. Thank you. I will go out and try to make a difference to at least one living creature.

  • Dr. Pia that is a great story. My mom lives by that rule if she can help one person or one animal it's one less in need. Mom likes the starfish wash mitt she said they would be great for washing our faces. (something I'm not very fond of)

    Basil please have your mom email us and let us know the outcome of your test, we'll be praying for you buddy.

    Precious has to see the Doctor this morning and have blood work done. The good news is there is no infection in her urine but it was very diluted. Mom had to follow her out this morning and get a sample of her first pee of the day. The Doctor said he wants to rule out kidney failure. Hopefully we'll know something today, this waiting is just horrible. Mom is stressed from work and now Precious, I hate to see he this sad.

    It's going to be a beautiful day here in South Jersey, no humidity and sunshine. I think I'll enjoy my chase lounge and catch a few rays :)

    Zoe

  • What a nice thing that young man did. Good job Dr. Pia. Well, well well, Basil my friend, you are up bright and early this morning. I was so worried about you last night. I went back to the previous post to see if there was an update on you. All is well with the world this morning. Starfish are being saved and Basil is up and at em rarin' to go so I think I will go take a nap. hehehehe
    Maddox

  • Thank you for this wonderful story. Back in the 1950's my parents & I would vacation at Long Boat Key Florida in the Springtime. (then I was alone on the beach all day) I loved starfish and shells. Now, in East Central Illinois, living on a small lake, we teach the Grandchildren to love the bullfrog, the fish and any little creature we see and do not touch. We watch & let them move on their way.
    Sunny Day to you,
    Sharon W

  • Hi Dr Pia,
    Rebel here, I personally have trouble leaving the rabbits & squirrels alone...sorry.
    from the biggest of the small ones,
    your chihuahua friend
    Senor Rebel

  • Dr.Pia, this story made me smile...I use to do this very same thing as a child on the Beach in San Francisco. The first photo brought back good memories when visiting this area of beach by the G.G. bridge.

    If I find any type of animal(bats, birds, turtles frogs etc.) in or out of water I try to rescue them. When I had my Ranch in Missouri we had a waterfall, creek and connecting pond...when it rained heavily the blue gill fish would come over the waterfall area from the wildlife reserve pond and get stuck on the rocks, then the raccoons came to feast..I would go and pick up all the live fish and put them in the creek to make the journey to our pond and all the connecting ponds.

    I even save chipmunks who tear up my garden from my Kitty's grip of death, they have a right to live too...right? <3

  • Hi guys rocky here,I loved the starfish story Mom tries to help the farel cats in the neighborhood we don't much like them but she has aname for each one. I was so sad to read about basil and precious there are alot of us to pray here and we know that works .I have some great news !With all the prayers and support mom no longer has bladder cancer ,one more chemo and she is done except for the rechecks so basil and precious prayer does really work!thanks all for your support . love rocky and all the little hooligans

  • Hi Dr. Pia, As all of our Daily Wag friends said, this is a wonderful blog post! It would be fantastic if there were millions more people who cared about all animals the way the starfish guy did! All of our animals in the world would be so happy and healthy if everyone cared! My sweet, little Dudley Do Right and me are continuing to pray and ask God to take care of all of our friends, especially Basil, Precious, Kirby, Lynn, and Terri right now and all of you forever! We sure hope everyone has a terrific day today! Love, Jan & Dudley Do Right XOXOXO+

  • Hello ladies, Kirby here.
    And hello to you Dr. Pia. What a great story today. If we make a difference in just one life, our journey here on earth will be worth it.
    Catch you later, Kirby.
    Way to go Kirby; your finding my cancer saved my life. Thank you for making a difference in my life Kirby, Daddy

  • It is always great to hear the starfish story. NewMom gets sad sometimes because of all the Frenchies that need help that the group she works with, French Bulldog Rescue Network, can't get to to help or can't afford to help. But then she sees our friend Fortula who came out of a puppymill and lives with friends of ours and she thinks, 'there's a starfish we made a difference for!'

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