A man was walking along a beach where thousands of starfish had been washed up on the shore. He noticed a boy picking up the starfish one by one and gently throwing them back into the sea.
The man observed the boy for a few minutes and then asked what he was doing. The boy replied that he was returning the starfish to the water, otherwise they would die under the sun while the tide was going out.
The man asked how saving a few, when so many were doomed, would make any difference whatsoever. After listening politely, the boy picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf and said "Made a difference for that one."
The man left the boy and went home, perturbed over what the boy had said. The next morning he returned to the beach and spent the rest of the day helping the boy throw starfish back into the sea.
~ Adapted from "The Star Thrower" by Loren Eiseley