by Br. Michael Lomas, OFM
While walking on the beach yesterday evening, my brothers and I came across a starfish washed up on the shore. We marveled at it's beauty then eventually threw it back into the ocean. As I reflected on this event during compline (night prayer) I was reminded of a story:
Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions.
Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching. As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea. The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”
The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”
The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one.”
Sometimes I think we fail to see the importance of ourselves and the little daily things we do that go unnoticed to us but mean the world to those around us. I was reminded this morning at Mass that "at some point God looked down and noticed that the world was missing something; something important, something vital and necessary, and so you were born." The world is a big place and it can be very easy to feel small and insignificant, but the truth is that we all have a purpose; a reason that extends past our human understanding and encounters the divine when we trust and look through the eyes of faith.
There is so much hurt and hate going around right now, especially in our country, we are facing an overwhelming amount of fear and futility. There is an insurmountable number of starfish on the beach before us, but if we ban together, look past our differences to see the divine inside one another and reach our hands and hearts to those who are in need, like the child throwing starfish into the sea, we can be the tiny difference that is needed to make this world a better place. We can be the gift we were intended to be. Remember that you are loved!
Br. Michael Lomas is currently a novice with the St. Barbara Province and residing at the Interprovincial Novitiate, Santa Barbara, CA. He is 29 years old and from San Jose, CA where he worked in Youth and Young Adult ministry for ten years, prior to joining the friars.
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