There was once a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He was a very special person because he combined the best of two cultures, he was a scientist and a poet, and from these two perspectives he wrote insightfully and beautifully about the world and our role in it.
He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work. One day when he was walking along the shore, as he looked down the beach he saw a human figure moving like a dancer.
He smiled to himself, thinking, "Who is that dancing to the day?" Intrigued, he began walking faster to catch up. As he got closer, he saw that it was a young man. And the young man wasn't dancing, but instead he was reaching down to the shore, picking up something and very gently throwing it into the ocean.
As he got closer he called out, "What are you doing?"
The young man paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I guess I should have asked, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?"
"The sun is up and the tide is going out, and if I don't throw them in they'll die."
"But, young man, don't you realize that there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it. You can't possibly make a difference.!"
The young man listened politely, then bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it into the ocean, past the breaking waves.
"It made a difference for that one."
His response upset the wise man, he was upset and didn't know how to reply. So instead he turned away and walked back to his cottage to begin his writing.
All day long as he wrote, the image of that young man haunted him. He tried to ignore it, but the vision persisted. Finally, late that night he realized that he the scientist, he the poet, had missed the essential nature of the young man's actions.
He realized that what the young man was doing was choosing not to be an observer in the universe and watch it pass by, but was choosing to be an actor in the universe and make a difference.
By our actions we can also make a difference to ourselves and to the world around us. In my own life I try to not let a day pass without assisting others in their spiritual journey to perfection. It may not make a significant change to the world, but it may make a difference for someone.