One of the things that set me on the path of doing a website like this was my time as a columnist for a small newspaper from Spencer NY called "The Broader View Weekly". Having a bi-weekly deadline helped me not only to get my writing up to snuff but also forced me to come up with fresh ideas. Even more than I have to now. Some of these were personal stories that somehow tied into a message to share with the readers. This is one of them that I'll be posting from time to time.
Originally published in February 2011
An interesting and rather amazing thing happened this past weekend, and I’d like to share it with you, but first I have to tell you one story to tell you the other.
About twelve years ago when the idea of talking to strangers on the internet was a new and exciting thing, I ended up finding a pen pal of sorts. In the electronic Tower of Babel known as the AOL chat room, I became friends with a lawyer in Connecticut. Her profile listed her profession as “ambulance chaser” ( She disputes this fact now, but I say it's true. ) and mine being a paramedic working out of one I believe was what got the initial conversation going. Nonetheless when we found ourselves online, we would shoot the breeze about whatever, as pen pals would the old fashioned way.
Now my friend was a lawyer for children going through various problems, she never really specified what, but it seemed as though she took the task of being an advocate for children pretty seriously. There was one particular time when she must have had a bad day and asked at one point, “What’s the use ? I don’t think it will make a difference.” and I told her this story I had recently read:
“ An old man and his grandson were walking down the beach after a storm. Along the way they came upon what appeared to be hundreds of starfish that had washed ashore in the storm. The old man immediately began placing the starfish back in the water one by one lest they die on the sand.
The young man, watching, said, ‘Grandpa, what are you doing ? There’s too many and you can’t save them all. It’s not going to make a difference ! ‘
The old man turned, and placing the starfish in his hand back into the water smiled and said, ‘ It makes a difference to this one.’”
Time has made the conversation sort of spotty, but I always figured the story helped. I had no idea…
We eventually lost touch and life went on, ten years in fact. However last week, for some strange reason this friend crossed my mind. I have no idea why or how, just did. After a day or two of wondering “whatever became of…” that just wouldn’t leave me alone I finally decided to see if through the power of Google I could find out. So after beating my brains out remembering her last name I sent out an e mail to an address that seemed right, first making sure to explain I wasn’t nuts, just looking for someone. I also included the above story, knowing if I had the right person, they would remember that if nothing else.
A couple days went past and I finally got a response. I found my old “pen pal” who, admittedly didn’t remember much about me but remembered the story. She was in Florida she said, and then told me something that still leaves me in awe. It seems she continues to work with a youth group in response to some “pretty ugly” violence in her city. There are three kids who are working with her who have recently come to her on separate occasions to ask if what they were doing is “worth it”. She assured them it is, and while in Tampa bought them each a gold starfish with the intention of telling them the story.
It gets better. The day I had that irresistible urge to send out my e mail was the same day she bought the kids’ gifts.
I’m telling you this story first off because, let’s face it it’s pretty cool. Also, because it occurs to me that without realizing it, we each in our own way touch so many lives in ways we’ll never know. While not everyone may get such a reminder as I have, it feels right, it again feels necessary to pass it on as a reminder.
We all can make a difference.