A boy is walking with his grandfather along the beach after a bad storm. As their walking, the boy comments about the thousands of star fish that have washed up on the shore. He asks, “where do these starfish live?” His grandfather says, “in the ocean of course.” The boy thinks about this and says to his grandfather. “What’s going to happen to them then?” His grandfather says, “don’t worry about it, this often happens after a storm. It’s just the cycle of nature, that’s all, there’s nothing we can do about it.” The boy thinks about this and says, “why can’t we help them, why can’t we put them back in the ocean?”.
This is altruism at work in young children. Children see a problem, or someone not doing well and their natural wiring for connection kicks in, it hasn’t been jaded yet. At this point the boy starts picking up the starfish and throwing them back into the ocean. “I’m going to help them granddad.” His grandfather gets upset and says to him “it’s just how it is, it’s something you will learn as you get older. It’s not going to make any difference, and as I said, it’s just how it is” With tears in his eyes, he picks up one of the starfish and looks at his grandfather and says, “It will make a big difference to this one” as he throws it back in the water.
That’s the problem with our perceptions. As we get older, it can seem overwhelming to change things we think are beyond our capacity to change, but any small action can have a huge ripple effect. Seemingly insurmountable things have been changed by small actions at the right time and attempted in a sincere way. We all have the power to make a difference, and if our intentions are right and we are in congruence with our actions, beautiful things can happen. I was thinking about this story the other day, when I took my young granddaughter to the local park.
There’s a small adventure playground, with various pieces of equipment for the children to play on, it was the school holidays, so the playground was packed. I noticed straight away how the kids took turns with everything, they were on the swings, but were aware of the other kids who were waiting. I understand it can be boring playing with kids and I’m not denying this, but it’s only a short time out of my day, so I’m going to enjoy the experience. There is a large roundabout in the middle, which was empty until my granddaughter got on. My job was to grab the various handles and pull it around to make it go faster, I quickly learned why it was empty.
The kids came from every direction, someone was making it go fast. There must have been about eight kids now all jumping up and down on the roundabout yelling “faster, faster.” I noticed all the young mums and dads looking at me, I’m sure they were wondering, how long can the old man last before we have to call an ambulance? My reprieve didn’t come from them though, one of the young boys jumped off and started pushing with me. He must have been about 8 years old. I watched the other kid’s reaction, a couple of the kids around his age joined him while the younger kids stayed on. My granddaughter got off and pushed it for a while and she is only 5 years old.
It was amazing to see the co-operation between these kids, as small as they were, they just made it happen, so it seems for young children, the desire starts with a thought, but never ends with it. Their untainted faith, combined with action, always equals results that are commensurate to them.
I remembered the story recently of the over three hundred people who came to the rescue of a humpback whale after it lay stranded on a beach in Brazil. It weighed between 10 to 15 tons, people worked around the clock with shovels and JCB diggers to form a channel so that the sea water could wash the whale back out. People were left crying and shouting for joy as the mammal was released back into the Ocean. As adults even our tainted faith can work, a thought can turn into a desire to do the seemingly impossible. “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one” (Mother Teresa)