“Be ashamed to die until you have won some victory for humanity.” – Horace Mann
When I see these words from Horace Mann it reminds me to do good in the world. To go beyond myself and help others out. While many could argue that Mann meant one should to do some great, noble, or magnanimous act to help humanity; I prefer to think of if it on the personal level. One on one or few to few.
A few summers ago I was headed home from work and I saw a Vet walking along the side of the road. I don’t usually pick up people or offer rides to others. In this case, I felt compelled to stop. I had a nice chat and it was a very small thing on my part. Yet, I was thanked several times even though the guy wasn’t going very far (it might have been 3 miles). Small acts of kindness may not make a huge difference in the world; however it will make all the difference in the world to that one individual.
The Starfish Thrower
While walking along a beach, an elderly gentleman saw someone in the distance leaning down, picking something up and throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, picking up starfish one by one and tossing each one gently back into the water.
He came closer still and called out, “Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?”
The young man paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean.”
The old man smiled, and said, “I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?”
To this, the young man replied, “The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them in, they’ll die.”
Upon hearing this, the elderly observer commented, “But, young man, do you not realise that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can’t possibly make a difference!”
The young man listened politely. Then he bent down, picked up another starfish, threw it into the back into the ocean past the breaking waves and said, “It made a difference for that one.”(1)(2)
(1) This story was adapted from Loren Eiseley’s “The Star Thrower“.
(2) Adapted story, The Starfish Thrower.