Monday, August 24, 2009

Stops at the Service Station

Day 1**Salamanders and Sea Stars

I imagine that many of you are familiar with the story of the little boy and the sea stars. For those who are not, the premise is that this little boy is walking on an ocean beach and comes upon hundreds of stranded sea stars. Fearing for their lives, he begins to pick them up, and throw them back into the ocean. An older gentleman watches the little boy’s efforts and comments on the futility, suggesting that there are so many stranded sea stars that all his toil really doesn’t matter. The little boy ponders the gentleman’s words for a moment, and then throws another sea star into the water. “Well, it matters to that one,” he responds.

I was four years old when I had a similar experience. My saving efforts involved salamanders. My family lived in Placerville, California and we had a small creek next to our house. After a rain the salamanders would migrate out of the creek and settle onto the rural roadway where they would inevitably be squished by the neighborhood cars. It was traumatic for me, so I’d spend a good deal of my playtime picking up salamanders and throwing them back into the water. My two older sisters complained that it was gross and stupid and pleaded with my mom to make me stop. To her credit, she ignored them, and left me to my salamander saving.

The moral of these stories is that service need not be a huge deal to be significant. Edmund Burke, the eighteenth century Irish statesman and philosopher said, “Nobody made a greater mistake than he who did nothing because he could do only a little.”

Perhaps today we can go out and do a little something. Save a sea star or a salamander, or lift one person who is sad.

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