One More Starfish

Have you ever read or heard of the biblical story where the shepherd searched relentlessly for one of his lost sheep while the other 99 were contained and back at the pasture? If you’re a cynic, you’re probably saying, “it’s just one sheep, he has 99! What’s the big deal?” After all, if you had 99 cents, would you really be upset if you lost a penny? You’re looking at what you do have and its exponentially more than what you don’t. So why bother?

How about the story The Star Thrower by Loren C. Eiseley? Have you heard that one? There’s this writer taking a stroll along the beach and he notices a young man reaching down, taking a starfish out of the sand and tossing it into the water. The writer asks the young man why he keeps tossing one starfish after another in the water and the young man tells him that the sun is up and the tide is out and if he doesn’t throw them in, they will die. The writer’s response was cynical: there are miles and miles of beach, throwing ONE starfish in the water can’t possibly make a difference. The young man, picks up a starfish and tosses it into the water and says, “it made a difference to that one” and continues on his way. Why does he do this?

What’s the use? The young man saw each life as valuable and worth saving. I agree with him, all lives are worth saving; every single one is important, valuable, and necessary. That belief affects the quality of my relationships; I no longer see a person as expendable. Think about this: how many of us enter relationships thinking about how they will end? Sometimes we enter relationships with an agenda and it may or may not go according to our plans. All of our relationships serve a purpose in our lives because true growth takes place in the context of relationships. And because our growth and development depend on our relationships, they are crucial; whatever takes place within the context of a relationship can foster my growth and the result can be me being more ME than I was before the relationship. That relationship can direct me to learn more about myself, discover a new part of myself, stretch myself, teach me how to be in relationship with others. If we look at relationships from this perspective, no relationship is expendable.

We know that all relationships are not meant to last forever. What do we do when our relationships have reached the point where they have served their purpose? Do we approach that transition with gratitude or anger? Do we just let them fade away because we feel wronged or cheated? What positive things can you take away from the relationship – give thanks. Don’t just let someone that you intentionally chose to be in relationship with haphazardly slip away. Take a shot at closing with gratitude.

The young man that made a difference in the life of one starfish at a time and the shepherd that searched relentlessly for one sheep did so because they recognized the value of each animal’s life.

I want to encourage you to change your perspective on a relationship that you let slip away and give thanks for the things that you learned about yourself, about life, about relationships … If necessary, reach out to that person and genuinely express your thanks to them and acknowledge the relationship for what it was to you.

Examine your current relationships and give thanks for the impact that they have had on you. If necessary, acknowledge that person’s impact on your life.

Let me know how that turns out for you …

In fact, I’ve got to go make some phone calls or write a letter or two. I refuse to let any sheep or starfish get away …


  1. Wow!! You have TRULY inspired me with this. It brought a lot of thoughts to the surface. I'm going to take some time tonight to write a few letters myself. Thank you so much!

  2. Thank you for your comment. Let me know how that turns out for you. As soon as I wrote this, I received a call from someone that I was once friends with and the relationship had "dissolved". The person simply offered an apology and I had a tremendous amount of gratitude for the all that that relationship brought to me. I felt closure and freedom at the same time. I was free to see just what that relationship really brought to my life.

    I am looking forward to hearing what your experience will be like.


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