Many starfish out there need saving

Published 12:00 am Sunday, May 30, 2010

Most everyone has heard the old proverb about the boy and the starfish, but I was reminded of it recently. Then, I basically ­saw it in real life.

For those who have forgotten, here is a paraphrased version:

A man was on vacation and decided to go for a walk. He saw a young boy alone on the beach, intently working on something.

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The shore was blanketed with starfish that had been washed up by the high tide and were likely going to die before the tide returned. The boy was walking slowly along the shore. Ever so often he would pick up a starfish and toss it back into the ocean.

The man, perplexed at the futility of these efforts but also intrigued, walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching you and was really curious why you are doing this. There are thousands of starfish washed up on the beach here. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?”

The boy calmly looked up at the man, and then looked down at another starfish lying in the sand. He picked up the starfish, tossed it back into the sea and answered the man with a seriousness that belied his age.

“It made a difference to that one.”

That may sound like a cliché or a hyperbole but there is a lot of truth to that simple philosophy.

That same approach is what we need to apply to our lives and to our community.

I was talking about community projects recently with a few people and it dawned on me how the starfish story really fits right here at home.

A variety of civic organizations and concerned citizens continue to dedicate their time and effort to making our county a better place.

Having witnessed some of these efforts firsthand, I can tell you that the men and women who volunteer on projects like these are heroes in their own right.

We may be hundreds of miles from the ocean but we have our own starfish right here.

And our own version of the story, too.

Recently, members of the Ironton Rotary Club were at the fountain square at Third and Center streets in downtown.

The club has made a commitment to make this area more appealing and a useful part of the city.

Improvements include changing the fountain nozzle, adding metal benches, landscaping and the construction of an arbor.

We have worked on this project for more than a year and the club is committed to five years or more of continuing to enhance the area.

I say “we” only because I am a member of the club but time constraints and a variety of other commitment have meant that I have done little to help with this project.

The real credit goes to Rich Mountain, Jeff Clark and all the other members who have put in countless hours and lots of sweat equity.

But back to the starfish analogy.

Club members were at the fountain when a gentlemen approached them.

“Why are you all doing this? This is is just stupid, it won’t change anything and is a waste of money,” the man essentially said very gruffly.

Club members politely tried to explain that projects like this do matter.

They could have told him that this small piece of our community is just another starfish.

Can we save them all? Of course not, but we can make a difference one at a time.

Michael Caldwell is publisher of The Tribune. To reach him, call (740) 532-1445 ext. 24 or by e-mail at