Epiphany message for all the starfish throwers

Epiphany message for all the starfish throwers

Story and Verse: This is the seventh and final poem in our Thanksgiving-to-Epiphany series.

This poem started years ago when I was in my training to be a missionary. Over the years I have added verses to the poem because of life experiences resulting from my service. This is the final result.

The poem is based on the story of the Starfish Thrower. A man watched as hundreds of starfish washed on the shore, then he picked up just one and tossed it back into the sea. Bystanders watched the man and asked, “What difference does it make to save just one when so many are washing up on the shore?” The man threw one more starfish back into the surf and replied, “It made a difference to that one!”
Epiphany is that “aha moment” when things suddenly become clear or when we awaken to a new realization. For the world it’s the revelation of God incarnate in Jesus Christ. Throughout life we tend to stand by and allow people around us to suffer because of greed, racism, poverty, war, pestilence, injustice and disease. We feel inadequate to take a stand or to act because of fear, risk or ridicule.

Yet there's always that one person who stands alone to make a difference in maybe just one life, cause or struggle. There's always that individual willing to stand against all odds and walk in the steps of Jesus Christ. In that person and in that moment, we catch a glimpse of God bringing transformation and offering hope to the world.
On this day of Epiphany and throughout the coming year, may we search for God’s presence in our own lives. Like the starfish thrower, let us make a difference for "that one," while remaining open to the possibility that "the one" might be ... "myself."


To All the Starfish Throwers

He stands alone upon the shore
    Where the thoughtless people roam
Quickly throwing the prized starfish
     Beyond the safety of the foam
And all the while the crowd looks on
    For no action do they take
They mock and say with much disdain
    “Just what difference will it make?”
He stands at times against the crowd
    That battles the wars of turf
And cries out for a world of peace
    Another starfish in the surf
She feels the doors that have been shut
    Because of color and of race
But stands up proud and speaks her voice
    Another starfish takes its place
They wait outside the big oak doors
    Of the church their hope grows dim
One rises up to plead their cause
    Another starfish free to swim
And there’s a child with dirty face
    Tracked with tears of hunger pain
But then one shares their meager fare
    Another starfish spared again
And when one’s life is torn apart
    By disaster’s fatal sway
It’s through the simple things we do
    Another starfish finds its way
And when one finds their way back home
    After years of war and strife
We can be there with love and hope
    Another starfish now has life
A mother holds her dying child
    Her heart with grief is torn
We are there to share her pain
    Give hope for starfish yet unborn
And when pandemic disrupts life
    And we find it hard to cope
One reaches out to hold our hand
    Another starfish now has hope
For like the stranger on the shore
    Saw a job that needed done
And with content he smiled and said,
    “It made a difference to that one!”
Now there’s a call to mission here
    Yes, it’s time the world must know
That we are called against the norm
    For when the starfish we must throw

-- Harry Howe


howe and baby 2019.jpg
Harry Howe

The Rev. Harry Howe is director of Project Crossroads in Marion, Virginia.