Save a Starfish and Make a Difference

Posted on 07/16/14 by Mary Ellis


The Worth of a Starfish

Do you remember the age-old story about the starfish? As told to me as a child, a young girl was walking along the beach with her grandfather when they happened upon thousands of starfish left behind by the lowering tide. When Grandpa picked up one to fling back into the waves, the girl did the same. One by one they returned the creatures to the sea before the scorching summer sun could kill them. After a while the child peered up and wailed, “This is hopeless! There’re only two of us and thousands of them. What difference can we make?”

The sage grandfather pulled another starfish from the sand, its glistening surface almost completely dry, and flung it as far as he could into the surf. “You’re right. We can’t save them all, but I’m sure we made a difference to that one.”

Can I Make a Difference?

That story has stayed with me my entire life, the concept of making a difference returning in various applications: I recycle my water bottle instead of adding to a receptacle overflowing with plastic. I attempt to purchase green cleaning supplies and recycled paper products despite the plethora on the shelves. Americans are continually challenged to do the right thing ecologically…or as Christians. In the modern world it’s tough to walk the narrow path with every thought, word, and deed. How about the Bible’s command to introduce the saving power of Christ to nonbelievers? With the world’s population only 33% Christian, how can a humble fiction writer from Ohio have any impact whatsoever? But perhaps like the starfish dying in the sand, it might make all the difference in the world to the few I do reach.


In my historical novel The Lady and the Officer, Madeline Howard arrives at a makeshift hospital following the Civil War battle of Gettysburg. Untrained, she’s completely ill-equipped for the enormous task sprawling before her. Although most would consider her brief nursing career an abysmal failure, Madeline manages to save the life of one dying soldier. Amidst a sea of suffering and death, she made a difference in the life of one Confederate colonel from Richmond.

We can start the journey and make a difference with a single step, whether we’re reducing waste, helping the sick, or introducing a friend or neighbor to a life-changing relationship with our Lord.

Colonel Haywood had been the only soldier she saved in Gettysburg. The hopelessness and futility of war would continue to haunt her forever. 

~The Lady and the Officer by Mary Ellis

Mary_Ellis_Author_PictureMary Ellis has written 12 novels set in the Amish community. She has enjoyed a lifelong passion for American history and is currently working on several romances set during the Civil War. You can vist her on the web at

Like this post? Learn more about making a difference as a father in Jim George's post, Being a Dad Who Is an Encourager.

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