Feeling Small in a Big World

This week I saw the new movie, 'Fury' (yes, Brad Pitt was the main motivation for going to see it, and he did not disappoint!). It was an entertaining, heart wrenching movie that left me in deep thought about the history of humanity, war, and the insignificance of life in this world. Heavy topics for a date night.

Recently I have felt a bit overwhelmed by the news. From ISIS to ebola, social injustices, and good people gone too soon. 'Fury' reminded me of just how many lost their lives in WWII, which only amplified my thoughts about how cruel we are to each other. The human condition has always been one of struggle and injustice, but now it is in our faces 24/7 in the form of news and entertainment. There is no escaping the brutality of this world, and it can all feel like too much sometimes.

When I was younger I felt like I could do anything. I was going to change the world. I felt powerful, like I was put here to fight the good fight. For as long as I can remember I knew that I wanted to make a meaningful impact -- to live my life so that when I leave this earth it's better than it was before...

But, life has been humbling. I now know that I probably will not change the world. I most likely won't be in the history books. Future generations won't use my quotes for inspiring internet memes. The big goals that once fueled me to wake up and seize the day now feel a bit insignificant.

I often struggle to the find enthusiasm to achieve smaller goals after "saving the world" didn't quite pan out like my childhood plans had anticipated. I'm learning how to feel content being small, and how to not feel guilty for no longer striving to save the world.

When I was a kid I heard a short story that has stuck with me, and I want to start thinking more like the little boy in that story. I'd like to celebrate the small things one can do instead of feeling overwhelmed and helpless by enormity of the big picture.

The Star Thrower story goes like this: (by Loren Eiseley)

A man was walking on the beach one day and noticed a boy who was reaching down, picking up a starfish and throwing it in the ocean. As he approached, he called out, “Hello!  What are you doing?”

The boy looked up and said, “I’m throwing starfish into the ocean.”

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?” asked the man.

“The tide stranded them. If I don’t throw them in the water before the sun comes up, they’ll die” came the answer.

“Surely you realize that there are miles of beach, and thousands of starfish. You’ll never throw them all back, there are too many. You can’t possibly make a difference.”

The boy listened politely, then picked up another starfish. As he threw it back into the sea, he said, “It made a difference for that one.”

Even though my youthful ambitions have not turned out as hoped, I can still wake up each day and be a star thrower.

And, that is enough.