THE LAST STARFISH
He was huddled on a little stool, pressed into the wall of a building on Fifth Avenue about a half block down from Saks. He didn't have a sign in front of him and wasn't holding a cup. He couldn't. His hands were misshapen; almost as if they had been "put on" backwards. He just looked up and said quietly, "Please."
I kept walking. I was hurrying from one meeting, heading for another, my feet hurt from my too-high heels and all I wanted to do was get back to my office, put on flats and get on with the afternoon.
I got to the corner of Fifth and 50th. The light changed and I was about to cross the street...but I didn't. I just stood there. Then I fumbled around in my purse for some bills, turned around and walked back to the young man sitting on the stool. I pressed the bills into the part of his hand that could grasp them and said, "Take care of yourself." He nodded. For some reason I almost felt like crying. I'm not sure why. Maybe I was tired. Or maybe I was moved by a young man who was simply trying to figure out a way to...live.
By the time I got back to my office I'd almost managed to forget him. But not quite. There are a whole lot of people sitting on little stools on Fifth Avenue. Some of them are holding babies, some of them are wounded vets, some of them are just at the end of their rope."Hey Gail," a friend of mine said, when I told him I was still haunted by this particular young man, "Let it go.You can't take care of all of them! And just for the record, in the end, your few bucks won't matter."
Well, of course, that brings to the old story of the boy and the starfish. You remember: There had been a storm and thousands of starfish had been washed up on a beach. A young boy reached down and picked up one starfish after another, tossing each gently back into the ocean. He never paused to rest. He just kept picking up and tossing. A man who had been jogging along the beach stopped and watched the boy for a while and then walked over to him and said, "There are too many of them. In the end, all this work of yours won't matter." The boy thought for a moment and then reached down to pick up another starfish. "It matters to this one," he said.
The question is:What matters? Maybe nothing. Maybe everything. I don't know. Ido know that at any given moment, I get to decide. So I decide in favor of the young man on the stool...and the last starfish.
Gail Blanke’s Lifedesigns©2013 All Rights Reserved
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