Once upon a time, there was a wise man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach before he began his work.
One day, as he was walking along the shore, he looked down the beach and saw a human figure moving like a dancer. He smiled to himself at the thought of someone who would dance to the day, so he walked faster to catch up.
As he got closer, he noticed that the figure was that of a young woman, and that what she was doing was not dancing at all. The young woman was reaching down to the shore, picking up small objects and throwing them into the ocean.
He came closer still and called out, "Good morning! May I ask what it is that you are doing?"
The young woman paused, looked up and replied, "Throwing starfish into the ocean."
"I must ask, then, why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?" asked the somewhat startled wise man.
To this the young woman replied, "The sun is up and the tide is going out. If I don't throw them in, they'll die."
Upon hearing this, the wise man commented, "But, young woman, do you not realize that there are miles and miles of beach and there are starfish all along every mile? You can't possibly make a difference!"
As if she hadn't heard, the young woman bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it into the ocean. As it met the water, she turned, smiled and said, "It made a difference to that one!"
The old man looked at the young woman inquisitively and thought about what she had done. Inspired, he joined her in throwing starfish back into the sea. Soon others joined, and all the starfish were saved.