The Starfish Flinger

As an old man walked the beach at dawn, he noticed a young girl ahead of him picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea.  Finally catching up with the youth, he asked why she was doing this.  The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left until the morning sun.

"But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish," countered the other.  "How can your effort make any difference?"

The youth looked at the starfish in her hand and then threw it to safety in the waves.  "It makes a difference to this one," she said.


starfish = a sea animal in the shape of a five-pointed star

to fling = to throw or flip

stranded = stuck in an unwanted location

countered = argued, offered a differing opinion

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.