Monday, August 22, 2011

One Plus One Adds Up

Thought for the day:  To know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived, that is to have succeeded.   Ralph Waldo Emerson

Snoopy isn't the only one.

Life seems to be dishing out plenty of things to worry about these days, doesn't it? A number of the blogs I follow have reflected that worry, and it's generally lined with a layer of depression, and topped with a heaping dose of frustration. Even a Pollyanna like me has to admit that it can be downright discouraging to see that humanity's still struggling with some of the same old scourges it's dealt with time and time again: hunger, poverty, racism, injustice, ignorance, war, famine, terrorism,  etc, etc, etc.

But it doesn't HAVE to be discouraging.

Life's problems can be overwhelming.

But they don't HAVE to be.

If we allow ourselves to dwell on the overwhelming magnitude of problems in the whole of the world, it's gonna get us down. I mean, what can we DO about all those problems in the entire world but fret and worry about them?  Actually, maybe there is something we can do.

I'd like to tell you a story.

A woman was walking along the beach on a beautiful sunny day. All was right in her world until she came to a stretch of sand covered with starfish. Thousands and thousands of starfish. All colors, all sizes, as far as her eye could see, beautiful helpless starfish, and as she looked at them, she was overwhelmed with sadness, because she knew they were all doomed to die there on that beach.

So she bent over, and very gently picked up one of the starfish, and threw it back splat!  into the water. Another woman came along, and stood there watching with a sneer on her face, as the first woman continued to pick up the starfish, one at a time, and toss them splat! back into the water.  

"You're a fool!" the second woman said derisively. "Look at all those starfish! All you're doing is kidding yourself, and wasting your time, because you will NEVER be able to save all of those starfish!"

"No," said the first woman with a smile. "But I can save ...

THIS one ...

and THIS one ...

And THIS one!
When the "big picture" is just too damned big to deal with, sometimes the best thing we can do to cope with it is simply break it down into smaller pieces. No, that woman couldn't save every single starfish stranded on that beach, and one might argue that even if she worked day and night until she collapsed in exhaustion, her rescue efforts wouldn't make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things, especially to the thousands of starfish that died in the sand.

But her efforts made a tremendous difference to each and every one of those starfish she DID save.

The same concept applies to each of us. Maybe we can't solve the world's problems, but we CAN make a positive difference in the lives of the people we encounter every day. Something as simple as a smile and a kind word can have an enormous impact on someone's day and outlook. A smile may be over in a flash, but the memory of it may last a lifetime.

And we can do MORE.

Part of the frustration so many people feel at the scope of world problems these days comes from of a sense of helplessness. But we aren't helpless. We CAN "brighten the corner where we are." We CAN volunteer and make a positive difference in our communities. There are programs in every town in this country, for sure, and possibly in most towns in the world, where volunteers can help the hungry, the sick, the poverty-stricken.

Next Monday, I'll tell you a little bit about what it's like to volunteer in a soup kitchen. No, my work never did a thing to ease world hunger, but it did make a difference in the lives of the people, the families, the many children who left there with a full stomach.

Let's save as many starfish as we can.

Until next time, take care of yourselves. And each other.


  1. So true. And the quote fits the fable perfectly.

    I always say that you may not be able to smile at everyone [or feel like] but to remember that just one smile and a kind word can change a person's day for the better. And they may take your smile and pass it along. :)

  2. Thanks for a positive cheerful blog. You crafted it so well as always.

    We're always being told to look at the big picture, but maybe our picture is just too big. I like the idea of brightening the corner where you are - you certainly did today. Thank you.

  3. One kind action at a time...thanks for getting us started.

  4. From Charles Dickens. "Have a heart that never hardens, and a temper that never tires, and a touch that never hurts."

    From my mother "I felt bad because I had no shoes, then I met a man with no feet". I am sure she got that from somewhere, and it was her favorite expression when one of us were feeling sorry for ourself.

    We have accomplished much in a day if we show kindness in any way or just even make one person smile.

  5. This is a good thing for me to remember going into the upcoming school year. I may not make a difference for every student, but I might make THE difference for some.

  6. Lovely post to read on a Monday morning!

  7. The rebels of the 60's were regarded with such suspicion. But maybe we should all now believe in world love, smash our TV sets, buy some chickens, grow our own vegs, and smile at each other more often.

  8. Such a great post. There is a similar article in this month's "O" about sending positive joyful energy into the world.

    And I kinda love Cro Magnon's comment.

  9. Hi, All. Thank you so much for your terrific comments. Y'all are the best.

  10. Love this post! :)

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

  11. Beautiful job, Susan. Thank you for this.

  12. Hi, Angie & Carrie. Thanks, ladies. Take care.

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  14. Excellent job of turning negatives into positives! I yam looking forward to reading more about your soup kitchen experience! Julie

  15. Hi, Julie. Thanks. I yam hoping I can do the experience justice.