I was once again touched by a story that was recently shared in an article I read. This story as an example of the effect that one person can have in service to God’s people, and I think it applies to all of us.
A vacationing businessman was walking along a beach when he saw a young boy. Along the shore were many starfish that had been washed up by the tide and were sure to die before the tide returned. The boy walked slowly along the shore and occasionally reached down and tossed the beached starfish back into the ocean. The businessman, hoping to teach the boy a little lesson in common sense, walked up to the boy and said, “I have been watching what you are doing, son. You have a good heart, and I know you mean well, but do you realize how many beaches there are around here and how many starfish are dying on every beach every day. Surely such an industrious and kindhearted boy such as yourself could find something better to do with your time. Do you really think that what you are doing is going to make a difference?” The boy looked up at the man, and then he looked down at a starfish by his feet. He picked up the starfish, and as he gently tossed it back into the ocean, he said, “It matters to that one.”
I often write and preach about the call to service as I believe it is so important to our calling as Christians. Over the years, I have come to learn through living the Cursillo method, that our faith life must be built on at least three strong legs — like a tripod. The first leg is PRAYER. The next is STUDY. The final leg is ACTION. If one leg of the tripod is not strong the tripod cannot stand effectively. So it is with us. Unless we pray, study (and learn about Christ and our faith) and put that faith into ACTION we will not have a balanced faith life.
In James 2:14,17,18b, James writes, “My brothers, what good is it to profess faith without practicing it? Such faith has no power to save one, has it? So it is with the faith that does nothing in practice. It is thoroughly lifeless.”
Pope Francis in a homily spoke on faith and service when he said, “In the Gospel, immediately following His words on the power of faith, Jesus speaks of service. Faith and service cannot be separated; on the contrary, they are intimately linked, interwoven with each other. When faith is interwoven with service, the heart remains open and youthful, and it expands in the process of doing good. Thus faith, as Jesus tells us in the Gospel, becomes powerful and accomplishes marvelous deeds. If faith follows this path, it matures and grows in strength, but only when it is joined to service.”
So often we may not always put our faith into action to make a difference in the family, community or the world that we live in. As in the Legend of the Starfish, we, like the young man, are faced with the impossible task of making the world right for so many of our brothers and sisters. It seems overwhelming and, to be honest, it may well be impossible. There are so many facing difficult times today. Where do we start? What I love about this story is that even though we may not be able to be there for everyone in every situation, when we act on behalf of another, it matters. We can start with just one person and to that one person it matters.
When we feed the hungry person — it matters. When we talk to the kid in school who is not the most popular— it matters. If we volunteer in a food kitchen or visit shut-ins— it matters. If we spend some time listening to an elderly person. You got it — it matters! There are millions of opportunities to serve and make a difference in your church, your school or your community. The comforting thought that the Legend of the Starfish offers is that we only have to begin with one — then another and another. However, it all begins with one.
Don’t underestimate that, however small your action might be, that it makes a difference to someone. I know that I can make the difference in the life of one person and so can you. If each of us took that opportunity, imagine the effect we could have on our world!
Anchor columnist Frank Lucca is a deacon in the Diocese of Fall River assigned to St. Mary’s Parish in Dartmouth and a campus minister at UMass Dartmouth. He is married to his wife of 43 years, Kristine, and the father of two daughters and their husbands, and five grandsons! So blessed!