Monday, December 28, 2009

Happy Endings and Starfish

My last blog entry was on my birthday, just about a month ago. This time of year is so busy with holiday planning and activities. I find I am always caught off guard about how quickly everything happens between Thanksgiving and the end of the year. I never quite get to all the things I want to – including blogging. But I am happy to be back . .

Part of my birthday celebration included a lovely quiet Italian dinner with my husband of eighteen years. Our kids are the center of our universe but we still enjoy a little couple time when we can. When we got home, the house was quiet. I was leafing through the mail and saw the newest edition of our adoption agency's quarterly update - WACAP Today (they are available on WACAP's website). I look forward to reading it because the stories included are heart warming and uplifting, not the usual fare you find on the nightly news. One article particularly caught my eye. I saw the familiar face of a severely malnourished little girl looking back at me.

We had seen her when we were in Addis to pick up Leyla about a year ago. I remember her vividly. The head caregiver at the house held her most times that we were there. This little baby girl was so tiny and frail. I was struck by her shrunken cheeks which were a stark contrast to our Leyla’s round cheeks. I inquired about her. I was told that she had just arrived and was likely premature. She had been adopted by a family that was prepared to deal with whatever special needs she might have after her rocky early start to life. The article in this edition talked about how she was doing now after having joined her family in the United States, a number of months before. It was striking to see the change. Her cheeks were now full and her smile infectious. It was an amazing birthday gift to see her smiling face looking back at me and reading about her happy ending.

Sometimes the need you see all around and hear about through the various new sources is so overwhelming. It is hard to know what to do and you know whatever you do will be insignificant in comparison to the need. Seeing this type of amazing happy ending is good encouragement and inspiration. My oldest son shared a story with me some time ago that provides another good perspective. I heard it again recently and was glad for the reminder.

Both my sons (pictured below) love finding starfish, like the lovely purple specimen above, around Seattle where we live.

The Starfish Story
Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, and so, he walked faster to catch up.

As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young man, and that what he was doing was not dancing at all. The young man was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects, and throwing them into the ocean. He came closer still and called out "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?" The young man paused, looked up, and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean." "I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.

To this, the young man replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die." Upon hearing this the wise man commented, "But, young man, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"

At this, the young man bent down, picked up yet another starfish, and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, he said, "It made a difference for that one."

(Loren Eiseley, a anthropologist, shared this encounter he had on the beach (he was the 'wise man'). See the link to his book on the side if you are interested in reading more.)

It is good to be reminded of happy endings we can have a part in if we choose and that we can all make a difference for someone.


  1. What an inspiring post! What a difference in that little girls! It's so good to see a little life changed for the better!

    I too have heard that story about the starfish, and I'm inspired everytime. I once had a conversation with a person trying to say that international adoption doesn't solve any of the big problems for the sending countries. I said "I know, but it DOES make a difference for at least one child".

  2. Thanks Connie! I felt the same way about that little girl - truly uplifting. Good answer to the skeptic. IMHO, we should all be reminded of the starfish story on a regular basis. There is that great quote, "we can't do everything but we can all do something" . . :)

  3. My daughters' primary school has a "Starfish" program, where a child from each class is honored each month for kindness and help to others. The name derives from the Starfish Story you mention. It's a great idea.

    Such a lovely story about the little girl. Your experience in Ethiopia is remarkable.