The Star Thrower: How Individual Changes Can Lead to Big Impacts

starfish on sea grass bed
Credit: Cristina Zenato
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Have you ever heard the story of the old man walking along the beach and seeing a young man throwing something into the water over and over again? 

When the old man approaches the boy, he sees he is picking up starfish that had been stranded during low tide and throwing them back into the water. The man proceeds on telling the boy that what he is doing is pointless, that the beach is miles and miles long and that there are thousands of starfish stranded, and that he will never make a difference.

The young man stops in his tracks, thinks about it, and picks up another starfish. As he throws it back in the water, he replies, “It made a difference for that one.”

This story has been inspirational to me on many occasions; it has convinced me that a small action is better than no big action. Every person counts, and if each of us throws a starfish back into the water, we are not only making a difference for that one, but we will collectively make a difference for many of them. 

I am a star thrower in the way I approach life. 

When I dive with my local group of sharks and see one of them with a fishing hook in its mouth, I feel the need to remove it. It is as necessary as removing a thorn from my dog’s paw. 

I consider the sharks my babies; I dive and live with them for many hours each day. Some people tell me that removing hooks does not change the fate of sharks in the world — I am not saving anybody. 

In a way, I agree, yet I also don’t see it this way. 

As I remove one hook, I improve the life of that shark; she has a better chance at feeding and healing. I may not be able to save all the sharks in the world — I’ve never pretended I could — but my actions can inspire many others to help sharks through their day-to-day lives. I take care of my sharks because I love them, and through my example, I encourage other people to love them, too.  

I am a star thrower when I clean the stretch of the beach I walk, only to clean it again each time I go back because the ocean relentlessly brings in garbage. I imagine I have saved one more turtle, one more dolphin, one more coral branch for each piece I remove. 

I am a star thrower in how I help rescue dogs on the Bahamian island I live on. I have taken in three to live with me, and I help foster and re-house many others. I may not save all the dogs in the world, but I can change the course of life for those I find on my path.

I am a star thrower when I refuse to use single-use plastic. I cannot always avoid it, but each time I can find an alternative, I think that one less piece is likely to end up on the beach I clean.

There are many ways each of us can be a positive influence in our daily lives. It’s easy to start small — look at one section of our lives, and as we implement a change and it becomes a habit, we can make another change. 

We can start from our kitchen and the way we plan our days. Here are some changes I’ve implemented in my life:

  • I work and travel with containers I can refill and reuse. 
  • I never purchase to-go coffee or drinks. 
  • When I travel, I walk by the different restaurants in the airport and see which one serves food with proper plates and cutlery rather than plastic
  • Unfortunately, I cannot avoid bottled water being served on planes (especially on long trips), but I refill my water bottle rather than take a plastic cup each time. 
  • I always carry reusable shopping bags.
  • We prepare any food we need for the day at home and carry it with us.

Another step might include changing our dietary choices. Selecting one day per week to eat meatless helps reduce our carbon footprints tremendously. 

In a previous blog, I addressed ways to be more environmentally friendly by looking at how we manage our gardens and lawns; we should apply similar practices in cleaning our households. Baking soda, white vinegar and hot water go a very long way to clean without adversely affecting the environment or our own health. 

Although I live in a tropical country, I also elect never to use poisons for what are sometimes considered pests inside the house. Instead, I foster the presence of predators such as lizards, spiders, frogs and geckos. They are the guardians of my space, feeding on the animals that I might consider invasive, and I have not had any issues with ants, roaches and other small critters for years. 

I didn’t implement all of these changes in one day or begin this journey on my own; somebody along the way was my own star thrower example, showing me that everyone can make a difference. So I started with one change and made it a mission to continue learning. 

When we start making small changes in our lives, we soon realize we are not alone, and that our positive actions and those of the people around us can have real, lasting impacts. I wish to create an army of star throwers, of people that believe every person counts and that we can change the world one action at a time.

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