By: Ken La Rive
Disclaimer: I have been telling this story many years before the book “Chicken Soup for the Soul.” I can assure you this story is true and accurate…
Back in 88’ we lived in the Cayman Islands. Day in and day out we were presented with throngs of smiling bikini-clad tourists wanting to drink and be merry. One weekend several of us families pooled our resources and rented a large house in Finger Kay, a secluded part of the island. Yep, we wanted to get away from all that.
We barbecued lobster and fish caught fresh from the crystal clear lagoon, drank Red Stripe and wine, and snorkeled for conch chowder.
Laura was eight then, and had a little friend named Caroline. They were inseparable. Each morning they would be on the beach at first light, combing it for the night tide’s treasure. I would put on my Niki’s and pass them up jogging. This morning though, I saw them further down the beach. The glare from the morning sun was reflecting on the waves, and I had to squint to see them. From this distance they looked to be dancing, but as I got closer I saw they were picking something up and throwing it into the sea. I stopped. They were throwing red starfish.
My mind went back six months before, to a place called Fountainblu State Park, in Louisiana. We had gone home for a visit. I borrowed a couple of bicycles from my sister and took Laura for a ride. It was a beautiful spring day, and we road down the deserted blacktop roads under the dapple of moss-covered oaks and pecan trees. Suddenly Laura stopped her bike and got off. She was crying. “What’s wrong?” I asked her. From the trees, she told me, there were caterpillars that were dangling down to the ground, and she couldn’t help running them over. “They will be butterflies! This is no fun at all!” She said loudly.
So with my worldly knowledge I told her this was all just a normal thing. We kill tiny things every time we put our foot on the ground, and yet we have a right to be here. I told her that these organisms were simple, and we were complex. I told her that it couldn’t be helped, and the day was still beautiful, and made to be enjoyed.
She seemed to try and believe me, and though she kept a stiff upper lip, I could tell she was having a hard time with it. I thought she was too sensitive, and the day was mostly wasted. As a city boy, I had been told the same thing in my youth. My Cajun cousins would laugh at my city slicker sensibilities when I would visit. I thought: Here she is again, wasting a perfectly beautiful day. I asked. “What are you girls doing?” They didn’t miss a throw. “We are saving these starfish. They are caught up here from the tide and will dry up when the sun gets hot.” It all came back. “Look, Laura,” I said in my perfectly condescending adult voice, “there are hundreds of starfish here. Look at them all! What difference does it make?”
She reached down with a smile and threw another one into the crystal clear waves. “Made a difference for this one Dad.” I laughed and shook my head, and continued down the beach. Then it hit me. It hit me right between the eyes. She was right! It did make a difference. I turned around and went back, and for the rest of the morning, and the next as well, I helped them throw starfish into the sea.