The trick to making a difference is recognizing the starfish, in whatever form it shows up.
There’s a popular story told by many a motivational speaker that describes a person walking along a beach who was picking up starfish on the shore and tossing them back into the ocean. An observer told the starfish thrower that his efforts were basically pointless because there were so many starfish on that stretch of sand, so he couldn’t possibly save them all and what he was doing was not going to make a difference. Unphased by the discouraging comments, the starfish thrower kept walking along. He picked up another starfish and sent it back to the sea. “Well, I certainly made a difference to that starfish,” he said, as he continued on.
We’ve all heard stories about a lucky starfish and how a life was changed for the better because of someone lending a kind hand. In business and in life, we want to be starfish throwers because, yes, it means we are helping someone in need, but also, just as important, we’re helping ourselves be the kind of people we want to be. Helping others – especially those who can’t possibly pay us back or return the favor – makes us feel good. And the power of feeling good in a time of mental health crisis cannot be understated. When we feel good about ourselves, we may stand up a little straighter, smile a little broader and, I believe, be better at everything we do, including being kinder to each other. The trick to making a difference is recognizing the starfish, in whatever form it shows up.
That was made extraordinarily easy for me when a young woman with a huge smile was walking my way in a community college hallway years ago. I have to say, she glowed as she greeted me, a stranger.
I didn’t stop to find out who she was then, but I saw her again and again. Finally, we spoke, and I learned she was from Vietnam. She bubbled with an overabundance of joy and extreme gratitude. She believed she was blessed. She recognized she was one of the fortunate few in the world who had the opportunity to earn an education. She was working on her studies while also holding down a job and mastering the English language. And, she had lofty dreams, I thought. She was determined to be a pharmacist in the United States because she wanted to help people heal.
We would visit now and then, and I’d learn about academic awards she had won and scholarships she had obtained. With each achievement she seemed to be bursting with this rare raw joy, and I began to also really truly believe in her vision. It made me wonder how I could support her journey.
I had heard about women in a service club who were taking business clothes out of their own closets and giving them to young women who were about to enter the workforce. I remembered how challenging it was to dress “like the job you want” for countless interviews after graduating from college.
In my own closet hung a silky, yet structured, black and white dress with a delicate jacket that had a faint pattern of tiny seashells. I had worn it once to a business luncheon. I loved the way it felt, the way it looked and the way it flowed with simple elegance. Part of me protested, “But, I love this dress!” The other part said, “Perfect.” And when I gave it to her, she glowed yet again.
Although I’ve heard the story of the starfish thrower many times since, she was the one who first told it to me. She believed that she was that lucky starfish.
As I reflect on that time, I do so with joy, as I remember her beautiful smiling face, and with gratitude because she taught me how to be a starfish thrower.
Coincidentally, her name was “Star.” FBN
By Bonnie Stevens, FBN
Bonnie Stevens is a public relations consultant. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Originally Appeared On: https://www.flagstaffbusinessnews.com/reflecting-the-glow-of-a-lucky-starfish/