After the Storm…
Once upon a time, an extraordinarily high tide coincided with a mighty gale, which ripped along the coast of Monterrey. This wee tale takes place the following morning, as the clouds departed and the Sun returned, warming up the beach.
Picture two folks walking in opposite directions along this sea-wracked strand. It’s the first low tide following the heavy weather. One of them, an older fellow with a weathered face and gray beard, is searching for starfish that have been swept out of the tide pools and deposited well above the usual high water marks. Still alive, though doomed — they had fetched up far from their natural habitat. As our gray-beard encounters one after another, he carefully returns each to the sea.
The other fellow, a younger lad, watches this behavior for a while then approaches our ‘man on a mission’ and says, “Look, I see what you’re trying to do, but give it up. It’s a lost cause. This mess goes on for miles and miles. You can’t hope to make any real difference here.”
The elder man stops, stands up, and looks the youngster in the eye. “Ah… ,” he sighs. “I know how you see this. Once I, too, would have felt the same way. But, today, I’ve learned to look more closely at this world.
I respond now less to the abstractions of my mind and more to immediate necessities prompted by my heart. I’m now captivated by certain opportunities that present themselves before my face, from moment to moment.” He then picks up a stranded starfish and says, “Walk with me back down to the water for a moment.” The two walk together then stand side by side looking over a vast ocean stretching before them until lost beyond the curve of the Earth.
“Here,” says the old timer, handing his starfish to the lad beside him. “You now hold a life in your hands. If you aid it by returning it to the sea, it can continue its existence. Like you, it will then have a chance to explore, find nourishment, perhaps even have offspring that will continue to participate in this unimaginably vast chain of life of which it and you are but a small part.
“If not, well… To this one creature, your choice will make not just ‘a’ difference — it will make all the difference. Tell you what, I’ll leave it with you. I trust that your head and heart will respond appropriately.” And, with that, that the bearded elder turned and continued on up the beach.
The youngster looked carefully at the starfish. He had never actually stopped long enough to witness its curious complexity. It was alive; it was a five-armed mystery, whose life now lay in his hand. And, yes, the choice seemed easy. Surely, it deserved to continue its unique journey through time.
. . .
As the sun set that afternoon, an idle onlooker would see an old man and a young boy walking together — back over the dunes and down again to the road. Hand in hand, returning home, the two were tired but happy and at peace. Both had returned many creatures to their rightful place that day. Many a starfish had found its way home because of their efforts.
That night, our gray-beard fell asleep with a smile on his face, but not from saving starfish. His serene joy resulted from knowing he’d helped a youngster make a critical shift from head to heart, setting foot on an ancient path that, one day, might lead him all the way Home.
We are the gray-beard. We are the youngster. And, most importantly, we are the starfish.
Let’s go home.