After a particularly violent storm, an older gentleman happened upon the scene while on his morning walks along the beach. The shoreline was littered with starfish baking in the morning sun. Overwhelmed by the shear number of crustaceans, it appeared the coastline was covered for as far as the man could see.
His attention was drawn away as he saw a small child run from the sand and then wade waist deep to release a starfish back to the water. For several moments, the elder observed the school aged kid perform this routine over and over.
The gentleman shuffled over to the young’un. “What do you think you are doing there kid? There are thousands of them. You’ll never make a difference.”
After hearing the man’s proclamation, the child reached down to pick up a starfish that lay in front of the sand covered feet of the man. “To this one, Sir, to this one, it makes a difference.”
Passers by joined the older man and child to return the stranded starfish to the sea and a new chance at life.
The parable has many symbols of society.
I sat at the bedside of a woman that was homeless. I had the forms and checklist I needed to help guide her through with as much compassion I could convey. Her hair was wiry and sealed in weeks’ worth of grime. Her skin, porous and leathery, had bruises and small pebbles ground into it from the assault.
As a sexual assault crisis advocate, I was training a college student volunteer. As a male, I had to have an escort that was female to avoid any concerns of the survivor. It was made crystal clear that I was never to have physical contact with the survivor. Given the trauma a female could have endured through the sexual & physical assault, it was the aim to empower the survivor to have control over her body. Even a casual touch could trigger a protective response. Tears traced down her weathered face as she grabbed my arm. The clasp sent waves of sensations throughout my body. “Why would anyone want to have sex with me? WITH ME!?!?! Look at me!”
In seconds, I flashed to a conversation I had weeks earlier. “Are you sure you want me to do this? Aren’t I the last thing a woman would want to see?” I asked the Coordinator of services.
Melody was a Southern lady that bragged she collected gaudy costume jewelry. She always dressed in nicely pressed clothes. The Virginia Slim cigarette that she pulled from her lips had her ruby lipstick smeared on what used to be the white filter. She kept her sunglasses on her head like a RayBan tiara. Melody was a mix of Dixie Carter from Designing Women and Flo from Mel’s Diner.
“Chad, I want them to see not all guys will hurt them. Especially, I want you to be there for the kids,” Melody said after she took another sip of her sweet tea.
In a blink of an eye, I refocused on the lady in the hospital bed. Her eyes almost swollen shut showed her weary soul. I acknowledged her right to her body. “No matter what, no one should have violated you. You didn’t deserve to be hurt. I am sorry. May I squeeze your hand?” I asked. She moved her hand from my arm to my hands. I took her dry, cracked hands in mine. “You are a beautiful person. I am sorry this happened to you. You are special. Thank you for trusting me to share about what you experienced.”
I was reminded of the parable recently.. We, as a society, can turn our eyes away from opportunities to be that young child full of enthusiasm. We can play the role of the wise elder and unknowingly discourage a generosity of spirit. Conversely, we can, also, be inspired to join in to fight the good fight. We can be the passerby who witnesses a scene of encouragement and be an agent of change.
Each day we interact with someone, we have an opportunity to help bring healing. Even if it is just for a moment in time, it is vital to not be too busy to make a difference. Our efforts may not be able to change the tide. For one soul, in that moment, we can make a difference.