Why?

We did the showing at the GGSKS tonight. I was struck by a few things at various points throughout the evening, but after the presentation, I spent a little time talking with a woman who had watched the film and had a few questions. (That’s the way the film is, I guess… it generates as many questions as it answers, which may not be such a bad thing.)

We were talking about the proliferation of plastic packaging and the pollution that is the inevitable result, and how we are hoping that what we are doing will raise awareness about the problem. “To what end?” she finally asked in an exasperated voice. “They’re still going to make the stuff, people are still going to buy it. What difference does it make if you clean a beach or not? The problem will still be out there, still getting worse. It won’t matter.” She wasn’t trying to be negative; she was just giving voice to her frustration.

I understand. I get frustrated too. There’s a feeling that it doesn’t matter if one particular place or another gets cleaned up or not… for every piece of litter getting picked up, two pieces get thrown down. When I get to thinking this way, I try to remember the story of the little boy and the starfish.

A boy was walking along the beach one day and he came across a section of shoreline that was covered in starfish that had been stranded by the tide. The day was a hot one and the creatures were dying out of reach of the water, baking in the afternoon sun. The boy picked one up, walked it down to the water’s edge and placed it gently in the brine. He moved back up and did it again, then turned and made another trip. A man walked toward him, coming down the beach from the other direction. He stopped for a moment and spoke to the boy in that tone that adults use when they’re about to say something superior.

“It’s not going to matter you know. There must be a million of them out here. There’s no way that what you’re doing will make a difference.”

The boy looked at the man, then at the starfish in his hand, then started back toward the water. “It’ll make a difference to this one,” he said quietly as he walked away.

Tonight, I feel like that little boy. All we can do is tell the truth, put the facts out and let people make their own judgments about what they see. For some people, the facts will resonate. For others, the seeds will never sprout. We don’t have control of that and while the process may be frustrating at times, it’s the way it is.

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