A man was walking on the beach one day and noticed a boy who was reaching down, picking up a starfish and throwing it into the ocean. As he approached he called out, “Hello! What are you doing?”
The boy looked up and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.”
“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” the man asked.
“The tide stranded them. If I don’t throw them into the water before the sun comes up, they’ll die” came the answer.
“Surely you realize there are miles of beach and thousands of starfish. You’ll never throw them all back, there are too many. You can’t possibly make a difference.” The boy listened politely, then picked up another starfish. As he threw it back into the sea he said, “it made a difference to that one.”
When I was younger, we often sung a song in church that said:
Have I done any good in the world today?
Have I helped anyone in need?
Have I cheered up the sad and made someone feel glad?
If not, I have failed indeed.
and then later on
Only he who does something helps others to live.
It doesn’t matter what church you go to, or if you believe in God. Those are words with a good message behind them, meant to inspire. And the truth is, if you’re not living a life that uplifts others…well, you are failing.
So why am I even thinking about this? Why do I care? Let me tell you.
I was raised to be a humanitarian. I was raised to always have love for others, to always do my part when possible. My parents instilled in me values of service and an understanding that we as people we fall and we rise, and that we are absolutely dependent on one another. I was taught not only to treat people with kindness, but all living things. Throughout my childhood I learned to respect the world I live in, to appreciate it.
I gave back through service projects which clothed people, donated my time to playing Japanese orphans. I participated in project after project providing food to needy families. I rebuilt parks and benches, I made innumerable baby quilts and bandages, I mowed the lawns of neighbors, I house-sat pets, I raked mountains of leaves for the whole neighborhood, I helped plant and weed gardens, I volunteered in dental clinics, and more.
This true love of service has followed me into my adult life and I am constantly trying to figure out a way to help or support others in helping themselves. I share your fundraisers on social media. I donate what I can to almost all of them, because I know the power and hope even a dollar or a “share” can hold.
And I do this not only because I want to, but because I have been on the receiving end of unsolicited service and support many, many times. I give and I do my best to involve myself in as many things as possible because I know I still have a long life ahead of me, and that the time will come again when I find myself needing that support once more.
But none of that answers why my mind is trapped on this. The truth is that I’m a little frustrated.
Being directly involved or closely connected with a number of charitable organizations, I have seen the lack of public interest in getting involved with time or donations.
It is heartbreaking.
It is almost sickening.
People are quicker to criticize your foundation than they are to praise it. The ratio of “you’ll never make a difference” to the “how can I help” type comments are dumbfounding.
This is why I want to know what YOU’VE done to make this world a better place? Your presence in it certainly isn’t enough.
Are you out planting trees? Do you campaign for clean water? Do you offer free veterinary or medical services to those who need it? Do you pay to a charitable fund through your church?
Do you do anything?
Because when you sit there saying “you’ll never make a difference,” you’re outright wrong.
Donations made a difference to 16 year old Linda in Africa; the money was just enough to provide this orphan with just enough rice to keep her from going hungry. More donations would help buy her a wheelchair so she could go to school. Is helping 1 person not enough? Is helping her not enough of a difference? (Learn more about her story and make a donation here).
A devoted worker and donations certainly made a difference to 6 year old twins in Liberia, who lost their parents to ebola and then were sold into slavery. Luckily Fahodie for Friends had enough resources to save these boys from a lifetime as slaves. $3.00 a day is all it takes to feed and care for them. Is that not enough?
Donations made to my Oaxacan Street Dog initiative have helped spay/neuter, purchase food, and provide vet care to a small dog who was left to die in the street and now is dependent on a wheelchair. But many voice that because I can’t save them all I shouldn’t even try.
We can’t save all of the children from slavery today.
We can’t feed all of the children today.
We can’t rescue all of the dogs today.
But we can make a difference for one. Two. Three. And every day that number grows, and it would grow much quicker if all the haters would wake up, get over their pride, and say “You know what? Maybe today I’ll make a difference.”
So I leave you with a number of organizations you can donate to if you don’t already have your own cause.
Fahodie for Friends – rescuing, housing, caring for, and educating African children from lives of slavery
Oaxacan Street Dog Initiative – rescuing, feeding, rehabbing, and rehoming dogs left for dead in Oaxaca, Mexico
Rainforest Restoration – restoring habitat in Brazil and aiming to save over 420 species of birds, as well as special focus on large mammals in the area
The Ocean Cleanup – the largest ocean cleanup in history, removing trash from the most vital ecosystem on the planet