My memory was jogged into recollection of the Starfish Story last week, after I gave an MS Teams talk to the RNLI, at the request of Ross Macleod, the organisation’s Public Affairs Manager for Water Safety. The message in the simple story (replicated at the end of this post) tells how individuals can make a difference for the future, in ways they may never have envisaged.
The focus of this particular talk was less on water safety advocacy and more on how to support the bereaved.
One of the attendees wrote afterwards, “Thank you Andrea. The advice you’ve given on how to talk to people who are grieving is so helpful. I will always remember you relating your drowning prevention and bereavement work to the Starfish Story, which will always remind me of James”.
How heart-warming it is for me to have these kind comments from a lady who never even met James! The value of continuing to talk about what happened back in 2005 and make it relatable to today, is reaffirmed by such feedback. Thank you very much, Vicki.
As time goes by, I guess I can say that my particular grief path has provided me with two new voices: one in writing and speaking about grief and loss, and the other in promulgating water safety messages. The two have become intertwined in inexplicable ways, and this legacy for James continues to uplift and support me as I live with loss.
As the restrictions lift and we gradually begin to revisit our coasts and waterways, I hope everyone will please remember that vital message; to Respect the Water.
The Starfish Story
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 realise 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.” Loren Eiseley