Have I ever told you the story of the Star Thrower?
It's been around a long time, but I still love it. I see it as a metaphor for what we do, teaching in a disciplinary program.
Here it is, if you don't already know it:
This short story now exists in hundreds of variations such as that below, based on one originally written by Loren Eisely and first published by Readers Digest in 1991. It illustrates the same principle in 1 Cor. 4-6: you are unique, and even apparently small things you do are of eternal significance.
I awoke early, as I often did, just before sunrise to walk by the ocean's edge and greet the new day. As I moved through the misty dawn, I focused on a faint, faraway movement. I saw a boy, bending and reaching and waving his arms – dancing on the beach, no doubt in celebration of the perfect day soon to begin.
As I approached, I sadly realized that he was not dancing, but rather bending to sift through the debris left by the night's tide, stopping now and then to pick up a starfish and then standing, to heave it back into the sea. I asked the boy the purpose of the effort. "The tide has washed the starfish onto the beach and they cannot return to the sea by themselves," he replied. "When the sun rises, they will die, unless I throw them back to the sea."
I looked at the vast expanse of beach, stretching in both directions. Starfish littered the shore in numbers beyond calculation. the hopelessness of the boys's plan became clear to me and I pointed out, "But there are more starfish on this beach than you can ever save before the sun is up. Surely you cannot expect to make a difference."
He paused briefly to consider my words, bent to pick up a starfish and threw it as far as possible. Turning to me he simply said, "I made a difference to that one."
Today was the last class day for this school year. My starfish are scattering in all directions. Some will go back to their home campus. Some will be back here when school starts next year, to finish their placement. A few will be sent here again eventually, because they are still not ready to live in the "real" world.
A very few, a handful, will stay in touch. I may get an e-mail, or a card or letter, maybe a clipping from the newspaper when someone graduates from boot camp and becomes a Marine, or a wedding invitation. Some just want to know, do you remember me?
Do I remember?
Yes. Oh yes. I remember. Because these notes, cards, calls, and clippings tell me that "I made a difference to that one."