"Consider the Starfish"
A few hours at the Food Bank. Mulching new plants along a creek. Engaging kids in community service. Helping start a garden. Does any of this really make a difference?
We've all met "uber" volunteers, the ones who thrive on giving. No matter what needs to be done, they're there. Boundless energy, boundless compassion, boundless enthusiasm. We admire them immensely but they scare us a little. How can we live up to their example? Might we be swept into a volunteer vortex?
Most of us have such good intentions. Transforming them into action is the challenge. It seems impossible to find the time. Unless you're in a league with those extraordinary CNN Heroes, can you possibly make a difference?
Guess what? You've already started. You've pulled over your car to pick up a dead branch in the middle of the road that others have swerved to avoid. You've taken a casserole to an ailing friend. You've carried packages for the elderly gentleman on your block. People help one another every day. We used to call that simply being a good neighbor.
Now, in a larger, more complex world, non-profits often serve when neighbors aren't available. CanDo is one organization dedicated to helping ease the way. Seek that which moves you, stirs your heart. Then create a bit space to make it so. Even small acts can yield important consequences. Consider the story often told by American anthropologist, Loren Eisley.
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked,
"What are you doing?"
The youth replied, "Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them back, they'll die."
"Son," the man said, "don't you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can't make a difference!"
After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said...
"I made a difference for that one."
This column, by Hilary Zunin, first appeared in the June/July 2010 issue of Napa Valley Life magazine. www.napavalleylifemagazine.com.