My childhood pastor once told our congregation the story of a man walking down a beach tossing starfish back into the water. If they stayed washed up on the beach they would dry out and die, so he tossed them back as he strolled along the ocean’s edge.
The problem was that there were thousands of washed-up starfish.
“Why are you bothering with those starfish?” asked a second man, walking by. “It doesn’t matter. You’ll never save them all.”
The first man continued his work, stooping down, picking up another starfish, and tossing it back into the sea.
“It matters to this one,” he said, simply.
There is a lot of need out there. The metaphorical beach is covered with starfish.
Last week I learned that there are over 600 homeless students at our local community college. They’re couch-surfing and car-sleeping and trying to get an education. My heart broke a little bit learning that. Our church is praying about how to better love those in need right outside (and sometimes inside, too) our doors.
With so much need, it’s easy to be overwhelmed. To look at the beach, filled with starfish and say, “Better not to try, since I’ll never save them all.”
Yet God never asks us to save them all. That’s his job. What he asks of us is to be faithful with what we are given, with who is in front of us, with the task at hand.
As Jesus says in Matthew 10:
42 “If anyone gives even a cup of cold water to one of these little ones who is my disciple, truly I tell you, that person will certainly not lose their reward.”
You or I can’t solve the world’s ills. But a cup of cold water? We can all do that.
Work for good. Love well, speak truth, offer compassion, be brave.
As Victor Hugo wrote,
Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace. God is awake.
Go ahead. Toss another starfish back in the ocean today. And again tomorrow.
In the meantime, rest. God will look after the beach.