A man and his son were walking along the beach one morning just before sunrise. There had been a wild storm the night before. The wind had screamed and the waves crashed all night long until just a few hours ago when the calm came.
The beach was littered with parts of the ocean that had been tossed onto the land. There was seaweed, bits of driftwood and shells. Mostly, though, there were starfish. Starfish everywhere! The man and his boy could hardly walk without stepping on one.
“Daddy,” the boy asked. “Will these starfish crawl back to the sea?”
“”No, son,” his father answered. “They can’t crawl.”
“Then what will happen to them?”
The man was sad. He didn’t want to tell his boy what would happen.
“When the sun comes out the starfish will dry out and die,” he answered sorrowfully.
They walked some more, neither of them talking. Soon the boy bent down, picked up a starfish and threw it into the ocean. A few steps later he did the same thing again.
The father became concerned his son was setting himself up for heartbreak. There were so many starfish in need. There was no way he could help them all.
“Son, there are thousands of starfish on the beach. You’re just one little boy. What you’re doing isn’t going to change anything. It’s just the way things are. What you’re doing can’t possible matter.”
His little boy looked at his father, stooped down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the ocean. Looking again upon he father, the boy chided,
“But, Dad, It mattered to this one.”
The boy’s father bent down and picked up a starfish.
Compassion is the sometimes fatal capacity for feeling what it is like inside somebody else's skin. It is the knowledge that there can never really be any peace and joy for me until there is peace and joy finally for you too.
- Frederick Buechner
If society prospers at the expense of the intangibles,
how can it be called progress?