There once was a businessman visiting a resort community for a conference, and he left his hotel early one morning to take a walk along the beach. When he arrived to the shoreline, he noticed a shocking sight. Countless starfish were laying on the beach who had been washed up in a high tide during the night. They were still alive and moving, climbing all over each other trying to get back into the ocean. The man looked up and knew it wouldn’t be long before the sun fully came out and the poor creatures would bake to death as they were trapped there on the sand. There were thousands of starfish as far as his eye could see, and he wished he could do something about it, but there was no way he could make a dent in saving them. So he continued on his way in dismay. As he walked further along the beach, he came across a young boy who he saw lean over, scoop up a starfish, and fling it like a frisbee into the ocean. He watched as the little boy continued this process over and over again, picking up speed with each starfish he flung, clearly trying to save their lives. Once the man realized what the boy was doing, he felt sorry for the kid, and felt like it was his responsibility to share a harsh life lesson with the boy.

He approached the little boy and said, “Son, I see what you are doing here and let me tell you, it’s very noble, but you can’t save all of these starfish. There are thousands of them. The sun’s getting really hot and there’s not enough time; unfortunately they’re all going to die. You’ll be better off just going on your way to go play or something, you really can’t make much of a difference here.” The little boy stopped and didn’t say anything at first; he just stared back at the businessman as he thought of the news that was just shared with him. Then the boy leaned down again and picked up another starfish, flung it out into the ocean as far as he could and said, “Well I just made all the difference for that one.”

I think Helen Keller sums this lesson up best when she says; “I am only one, but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but I still can do something; and because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do something that I can do.” The little boy didn’t allow the magnitude of his situation to stop him from doing all that he could do to make a difference: save one starfish at a time. Sometimes we can look at the magnitude of the ugliness going on in the world (mass murders, world hunger, AIDS epidemic, war on drugs, human trafficking, police brutality, political change, inequalities, etc.) and think, “these issues are so enormous and complex that I’ll never make a difference, so why even bother trying?” But we can make it a habit to do what we can, when we can, where we can, with what we have, not only can at least one life be transformed, but our life will be transformed as well. We can all make a difference, if we approach it one starfish at a time.

As a community member, we must be faithful, serving and generous. When you give back to your community, you are recognizing that you are a part of something bigger than yourself. Just like in sports, we play for the team, we represent our school or our city and the name on the front of the jersey, rather than focusing on the name on the back. Sports has the power to bring us together and strengthen our community. One of the things that I loved about being a UCLA Bruin was the community and school pride. We respected our school and the community and wanted to represent it with dignity and class. I want to make sure that I am making the community better than how I entered it; which means focusing on ways I can improve my community, the place I live and the people around me. Value community service and giving back to your sisters and brothers. Jackie Robinson said it best, “a life is not important except the impact it has on others.” You are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Blessings and love,

Marti Reed

Marti Reed