An old man was walking along the beach one evening at low tide. He noticed that thousands of starfish had been stranded on the sand by the receding waters. In the course of his walk he came upon a young man who was picking up some of the starfish and throwing them back into the sea.
“What are you doing?” the old man asked.
“Oh, just saving some starfish,” the young man replied.
“Well, you're a fool,” the old man told him.
“Really?” replied the young man. “What makes you say so?”
“Well, just look at all the starfish on this beach. There are thousands of them.” The old man looked around and then at the young man.
“You don't have the time nor the energy to save all of them. Your saving a few starfish is nice, but in the larger scheme of things it's ridiculous. What difference could you possibly make?”
The young man looked at the old man for a moment. Then wordlessly, he bent down, picked up a starfish, and threw it far out into the water.
“Well,” he said, putting his hands on his hips in satisfaction, “I made a big difference to that one.”
And he tossed another into the ocean, “and this one,” tossed, “and this one...”