Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young man paused, looked up, and replied "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "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 am a long ways away from ever having children (I have much to learn before I can teach) but my girlfriends and I often stumble into conversations about one day raising kids. We joke about "our children" and what sports they might try or if we will dare to make them into "beauty queens" like some of the hellish mothers on television. But ultimately, we wonder what values and morals we will give to our children. What Pearls Of Wisdoms We Will Want Our Little Ones To Savor. And though I often debate on the answer to this question, after this weekend I think I am sure of how to answer this question.
You see, I won't care if my child does not want to write or does not want to dance. I want my children to be whatever their little hearts pray to be, but I want them to know one thing, more than anything at all: People are going to tell you that you cannot make a difference in this world. Never listen to cynics, only keep striving to leave this world better off for having had you around. I want them to know that even with all the tragedy and the heartbreak in this big globe of ours, they can play a part in making it more blue, more green and more humane. It sounds whimsical, perhaps too idealistic, but I only speak it because I see it and I know it to be true.
I spent this past weekend at a dance competition put on by the non-profit Kids for Kids: Dancing for Life. I grew up learning to dream with this organization, one that started fifteen years ago as a grassroots project and has now expanded to help donate over $700,000 to children's causes, putting on a 4-day competition for dancers all over New England. All the proceeds from the competition go towards local charities, presented with checks throughout the long weekend. Now that is a lot of good. But more glorious than all the funds that one check can hold is the fact that the little dancers know and learn throughout the weekend that their dances are different this time around. This time their twirls and pirouettes are dedicated to a child in a hospital receiving chemo or a family who has lost their father and is in need of scholarship money. By doing what they love, the art of dance, they are impacting the world and changing it. Shifting It. Daring It To Be. Look. Feel. Different.
We can easily watch the 5p.m. news tonight and feel the weight of a heavy world crashing onto our shoulders. But where will that get us? How will that renew us? What good are we if we are sunken by the tragedies that hold so much potential to pummel us?
I dare say that we need to shift our view point. We need to stop identifying all that is wrong, because the list will never end, and start small in making things right. A donation here. A few volunteer hours there. Lord knows I will never be the best salad maker in the world (though I made 250 in a few short hours) or ever master the art of making the perfect cannoli but this weekend it did not matter, it only mattered that I tried to do my part. And The Essence Is In The Trying. As checks were passed and passed and passed to people whose faces turned golden by the generosity, I knew at that very moment: We are so capable of making the difference that we grow up dreaming and believing in. We exist for a million little reasons but we must be the ones to dare those reasons into existence.