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Solving the Problem of Starfish on the Beach
Wednesday, October 20, 2010 • Posted October 20, 2010

Every day, we are bombarded with stories of pain and suffering. We know that people are going hungry, or dying of disease. We know that there are wars being fought, or that people are unleashing cruelty upon others. Sometimes, the amount of inhumanity and pain is almost too much to endure mentally, and I find myself starting to shut down.

I know that donations that I make will not feed the world and solve the problems of famine. I know that the people we've entrusted with our diplomacy can't make everyone stop fighting and start negotiating for peace. I understand that my prayers will be answered when and how God finds appropriate, even though I panic and think none of them are being heard.

This is one of the problems of our connected world. We now know, almost immediately, about all the bad that is happening. It makes us feel overwhelmed and helpless, and we often feel more inclined to throw up our hands or to bury our heads in the sand than to try and process all the information.

I had been having one of those weeks when I almost felt depressed at considering my inability to make any significant impact on the world. I was making my morning drive into town and had been listening to the news before switching over to a talk radio station on my XM satellite. The hosts were playing some music, and discussing some recent activity in Washington, D.C., that they found surprising and bothersome.

Several people called in to join the conversation about the political items; and, all of them expressed their frustration at the inability of Washington to solve the problems being discussed. The radio hosts also commented that many citizen groups and Washington seemed to be spinning their wheels on issues of importance and wondered when they would get their acts together.

And then, a quiet man from North Carolina called in. He was very polite; but, he was also very certain of his words. He offered that neither Democrats or Republicans were going to fix things. He suggested that neither the extreme right or left, the Tea Party, the Green Party or anyone else was responsible for fixing all the things wrong with our country and our world. It was, he reminded the hosts, our individual responsibility to fix things and to make them better.

He was immediately met with a bit of ridicule as the hosts asked, incredulously, just how that was supposed to happen.

"It's like the starfish on the beach," he responded.

The hosts asked what he meant.

"Two men were walking down a beach one day," the North Carolina man recounted. "There were starfish all over the beach that had washed up during heavy surf the evening before.

"One of the men began bending over and occasionally picking up starfish as he and his friend walked, gently tossing them back into the water."

""What are you doing?" his friend asked."

""I'm saving the starfish," he responded."

"His friend waved down the length of the beach and, with amazement, said, "You can't save all of the starfish.""

"The first man picked up another starfish and gently tossed it back into the surf. He then turned to his friend and said, "I just saved that one!""

It’s all just my opinion.

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