“. . . whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.”
– Matthew 25:40
There’s an old familiar story about all the starfish that had been washed up on the beach during high tide only to be left there in the sand to die as the tide went back out. A young boy playing on the beach recognized the fate of the starfish and began to methodically pick them up one at a time and toss them back into the sea. A man who had been observing the boy approached him shaking his head. “What’s the point, boy, don’t you see there are thousands of these starfish lying along the beach? There’s no way you’re going to make a difference.” Undaunted, the boy replied to the man as he tossed another starfish into the ocean, “Yeah, but it made a difference to that one.”
During World War II my grandmother committed herself to writing letters to servicemen stationed overseas, primarily to those who at one time had been students in her Sunday School class. Now, my grandmother’s letters were no small feat. They were labors of love, written in her small handwriting on multiple pages front and back and often times around the edges. In them she would share news from home, stories she remembered about that person’s family and childhood, and offer words of encouragement and inspiration. Each letter she composed represented hours of tedious work. Yet, I doubt seriously that my grandmother’s letter writing made much of a difference in defeating Hitler and saving the world. But I am pretty sure it made a difference to each one of those servicemen who received one.
Too often, I’m afraid, we find ourselves overwhelmed by the challenges and problems that exist in our lives and the world around us, becoming paralyzed by the enormity of it all. We’re like the man observing the boy on the beach tossing starfish back in the sea. “What’s the point?” we ask ourselves. “Surely my little contribution won’t make any difference.” But as Bob Pierce, Founder of World Vision once said, “Don’t fail to do something just because you can’t do everything.” And Jesus was crystal clear about this: “whatever you did for one of the least of these my brothers,” he said, “you did for me.”