"A man is rich in proportion to the number of things which he can afford to let alone.”

Henry D. Thoreau




How Does One Make a Difference ? 

 By Rachael White-Simard

This is a question that I have asked myself many times, as a parent, as a university student of international development studies and as a fellow human watching the world's climate change and feeling helpless to make an impact. To tell you the truth, I have felt and feel guilty for having so much to satiate my wants and needs; this in spite of cultivating simplicity in my life for more than two decades. I continually ask myself, how can my minimalistic efforts make an impact? When I feel this way, I remind myself of the starfish story; 

“Once upon a time, there was an old man who used to go to the ocean to do his writing. He had a habit of walking on the beach every morning before he began his work. Early one morning, he was walking along the shore after a big storm had passed and found the vast beach littered with starfish as far as the eye could see, stretching in both directions. 

“Off in the distance, the old man noticed a small boy approaching.  As the boy walked, he paused every so often and as he grew closer, the man could see that he was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it into the sea.  The boy came closer still and the man called out, “Good morning!  May I ask what it is that you are doing?”

“The young boy paused, looked up, and replied “Throwing starfish into the ocean. The tide has washed them up onto the beach and they can’t return to the sea by themselves,” the youth replied. “When the sun gets high, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water.”

“The old man replied, “But there must be tens of thousands of starfish on this beach. I’m afraid you won’t really be able to make much of a difference.”

“The boy bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as he could into the ocean. Then he turned, smiled and said, 'It made a difference to that one!'” adapted from The Star Throwerby Loren Eiseley

When I am reminded of this story, I am strengthened in my belief that my personal efforts to minimize my lifestyle do make a difference. Part of my commitment to living within the transition lifestyle has led me to the southeastern transition initiative – SETI   I have realized that there are more people out there who want to make a difference, who want to reduce their consumer consumption because it does have an impact. Within the SETI community is a place where I feel a purpose. I find it is life giving. I have so much to learn about living within the transition lifestyle – lots – but I keep moving in that direction, taking each day as it comes and asking myself, how can I make a difference today? 

Rachael White-Simard has lived near La Broquerie for over two decades but  grew up in southwestern Manitoba. She loves garden tomatoes that have been warmed in the sun, crisp spring asparagus, the Manitoba horizon and watching her husband, children and granddaughter laugh around the family supper table. 



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