Story of the Starfish – adapted from the Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley
A young girl was walking along a beach upon which thousands of starfish had been washed up during a terrible storm. When she came to each starfish, she would pick it up, and throw it back into the ocean. People watched her with amusement.
She had been doing this for some time when a man approached her and said, “Little girl, why are you doing this? Look at this beach! You can’t save all these starfish. You can’t begin to make a difference!”
The girl seemed crushed, suddenly deflated. But after a few moments, she bent down, picked up another starfish, and hurled it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she looked up at the man and replied,
“Well, I made a difference to that one!”
The old man looked at the girl inquisitively and thought about what she had done and said. Inspired, he joined the little girl in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.
I was fortunate to be born to an upper middle class American family. Although we had personal family challenges during my childhood, I never went to bed hungry or was without clothes. I had access to public education. I also had both my parents to console me in times of trouble.
Now fast forward to East Africa 2012. I was with a colleague from Kenya that was a friend and patient of mine. We had just concluded some business in Arusha, Tanzania and were planning to drive to Nairobi to travel back to the USA.
A young girl with minimum education, who was a niece of a friend, asked us to catch a ride to Nairobi. This was not an unusual request in this part of the world as most people do not have cars. The t girl was polite and cleanly dressed. I learned that she came from a poor family. Her father had been a security guard and was now unemployed. No social government safety net in Tanzania exists. The girl was going to Nairobi in hopes of securing a job as a nanny. Along the four hour trip we needed to stop a few times, as the young girl was “car sick”. Again nothing unusual about that. We arrived in Nairobi and we dropped the girl at the bus station and went about our business.
Eight months later, we were back in Nairobi and I asked how the young girl was doing. It was then that my friend relayed the heartbreaking story. As it turned out, the young girl was attempting to gain some form of employment because she was pregnant. She knew her family could not afford another mouth to feed. She attempted to get an abortion in Nairobi, as she thought the child would be doomed to a life of poverty like herself. Although it was against her beliefs, she felt that a life destined to poverty was much more cruel.
She did not have enough money for such a procedure, so she drank a gallon of mixture of bleach and a caustic tile cleaner in an attempt to get rid of the pregnancy, an attempt that could harm her as she got rid of the fetus. Many times God has another plan. Amazingly, they both survived and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. Interestingly the baby’s mother’s name, “Paulina”, is the name of one of my daughters. It occurred to me that the baby was meant to survive and that the coincidence of riding with her to Nairobi was not random. Maybe I was called to be involved in this child’s life? I have been providing a small stipend to the young girl and her daughter, Gloria, not because I was asked to but because I was called to.
Very little money is necessary to ensure Gloria’s education and provide for her basic needs. The cost of tuition and a school uniform is minor. In fact, going out to dinner once a month with my wife costs more than what is necessary to ensure that a child will receive a chance that her mother did not have. Providing financial assistance for this young child will help her get the education to attain job skills to survive.
Yes, it is only one child in a sea of humanity and there are millions like Gloria just like there are millions of star fish washed to shore during a storm. But I can and have made difference in that child’s life and YOU can too!
The most recent photo of our little Starfish, Gloria, taken in May 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania.