There is a well-known story about a young man throwing starfish out into the ocean. An older man walked by and asked him what he was doing. The young man replied that he was throwing the starfish out into the ocean so that they would not die in the heat of the sun. At that, the old man replied, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."
I thought of that story recently while reading an article on the Sisters of Life in Columbia Magazine (the magazine of the Knights of Columbus). They shared the story of a young woman named Mary who was pregnant with her abusive boyfriend’s child. Scared and with nowhere to turn, a mother’s center put her in contact with the Sisters of Life. They provided her with shelter, food, and prayer. She lived with them until her daughter was ten months old. During that time, she “found a job, reunited with her family, and allowed Jesus back into her life.” She now marvels at the blessing her daughter has been and the joy she has brought to her life.
This story could have had a far different ending had the Sisters of Life not been there to help. They made a difference for Mary and her daughter, and many others who find themselves in similar difficult circumstances.
The world’s problems are huge. It often seems that we are powerless in the face of them. Yet, we can make a difference for one person. We can’t feed all the hungry people in the world, but we can donate food to the local food bank. We can’t solve the problem of homelessness, but we can support our local shelter or provide money or food to the man or woman out on the street. We can’t keep every woman from aborting her child, but if we know someone who finds themselves unexpectedly pregnant, we can be supportive and kind and help her find the help she needs. We may not be able to make sure every child grows up loved, but we can certainly make sure our own children (and their friends!) do.
God puts opportunities in our paths every day to make a difference. They may be small acts of kindness or decisions that change the course of our lives, but we are called to respond and act with love. Mother Teresa who is known for the tremendous love and care that she brought to others offered these encouraging words: “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier,” and, in keeping with the story at the beginning of this article, “We ourselves feel that what we are doing is just a drop in the ocean. But the ocean would be less because of that missing drop.”
We can make a difference. We may never know the way we touched another person’s life, but if we do our part, we can trust that God will take care of the rest.