I still remember the day that I received this piece of paper. Dr. Linda Culbertson’s class. Senior year.
And as I sat there ready to embark on real teaching, her words penetrated my soul.
“ How can your effort make any difference?”
(The original as it came to me.)
We will never be able to reach them all. So often we are faced with this truth. There is so much need; everywhere in the world there is need. We are overwhelmed by the masses and the need to the point that it becomes paralyzing at times. I have felt the weight. I have seen the burden carried by others. I know that this is a reality. And for that reason, this pieces of paper – and the ensuing message that it sings, has traveled with me from Grove City, to Guatemala, to Virginia, Slippery Rock, each camp that I have worked at, each youth retreat, mission trip and classroom. The starfish to me represents so much more than an echinoderm.
A starfish reminds me to take my focus off of the masses and try to love and encourage just one. And slowly but surely, love is spread. A difference can be made.
My heart’s desire is to be available for whatever God has for me. And I ask God to cross paths with those that I can encourage. Today I was reminded of how God works and I don’t even realize it. I find myself asking if I have done enough. I feel my heart questioning. If I have made a difference. If I have loved as He would have loved. If I have been obedient to what He has asked of me.
Trying to cross that cultural line multiplies the difficulty. And today, God answered that one. Reminding me that HE cares about the little things. I worry about how I was perceived. And how to encourage beyond my cultural level of comfort. But God reminds me that it is He that speaks through the words. If I am willing, He is able.
Often we do not know if that starfish reached the ocean again, but I LOVE it when years later I see or hear the testimony of one of my former students and see them swimming freely, confidently in the sea. Oh how my heart leaps for joy.
And so I pray, that as the beach goes on for miles and I continue to walk, that God continues to use me and guide me. And I am grateful for the privilege that it is to walk beside students through their journey.
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.”