The Starfish Story Curmudgeon

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The Starfish Story Curmudgeon

Several weeks ago, a couple we know were married. It was a wonderfully happy event, celebrated by many. The wedding itself was elegant, and beautiful, and everyone had a delightful time at the reception. You know – the stuff fairy tales are made from. The bride chose a starfish theme for the celebration, telling the starfish story alongside it. She has worked hard for decades as a nurse and the starfish story speaks to her – a perfect choice for her, really. Starfish were part of both her wedding shower and the reception decor. Just lovely. What? You don’t know the starfish story?  Well, neither did I. So, in a nutshell: A young boy is walking along the beach when he sees hundreds of starfish washed up on the shore. In dismay, and realizing that many of them are still alive, he begins chucking them back out to sea so they won’t die on the beach. A man comes along and asks him, “Why are you throwing those starfish back out into the sea? You can’t possibly save all these starfish! What difference can you make when there are so many to be saved?” After thinking about it for a moment, and throwing one more starfish back out into the water, the boy replies, “I just made a difference for that one!” Of course, the starfish story got me thinking about advocates. Isn’t the “one person can make a difference” a huge theme in our work?  We can’t fix the entire healthcare system, but we can most certainly help one person at a time!  It would seem like the parable of the starfish fits us like a glove; as if we should embrace it, appreciate it, and even share it with others to help them understand why we do the work we do…  Until we realize that maybe – just maybe – it’s way too simplistic. Maybe we really need to take a closer look. In fact, maybe the starfish story represents how we should NOT be doing our work. Say what? To understand why the story should not represent…


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