My Starfish

Discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others

“A girl walked along the beach tossing marooned starfish back into the sea. How could she possibly save them all? Why try when the act seemed futile? A man discouraged her from her task but she ignored his opposition.”

I heard this story at one of my bridging ceremonies for Girl Scouts. The narrator intended to instill in us never to think that an act of kindness was too small to make an impact. Even though the girl in the story could not save all of the starfish, she knew she had made a difference in the lives of the ones she did save.

I ran with this idea that I, an insignificant speck in the vast universe, could actually do something substantial.

My first opportunity was an unwelcome one. Everything was loud. Then, silent. I received the text in the cafeteria of my high school. It was so unexpected. My cousin was blunt: “I am going into brain surgery.” I typed with fervor, awaiting some explanation. There was no response. I was left on the edge of a cliff. I felt so alone because I did not know what was happening. All I knew was that my cousin Jake was in the operating room 600 miles away from me in North Carolina. What could I do? How could I help him at this distance? Later that day I discovered that he had been diagnosed with a rare brain tumor.

I began to FaceTime him. My aunt contacted me, thanking me because it seemed that my calls were what put a smile on his face. It felt strange to be responsible for someone else’s happiness, a bit daunting, but I did not waver. I did not want him to feel alone in this process.

This experience is what drew me to have such compassion for children with illnesses. Illness sheds a new light on life: something that can be cut short in an instant. My cousin’s future is still unclear, which gives me motivation to continue to help him and others through their brave fight.

A place that is dedicated to providing a different kind of healing to children with serious illnesses, the Hole in the Wall Gang Camp was founded by Paul Newman in 1988. I have always wanted to help this organization because my father works for Newman’s Own, the company that funds the camp. My family frequently went to volunteer, mainly helping set up camp for each summer, and I was always moved by what the Hole in the Wall was trying to accomplish. What inspired me most was hearing the campers’ stories about their transformative experiences. Volunteering was life changing, especially having my cousin’s situation weighing on my mind.

A few years later I had an opportunity to complete my Girl Scout Gold Award. It was the easiest decision I have ever had to make. I knew this camp had a special place in my heart and would be a perfect opportunity for me to personally make the differences that I had observed when I was younger, in the camp and in the children’s’ lives. I needed to make my cousin proud and be strong for him. To help people like him I utilized my project as a platform to raise awareness. For my Gold Award I created a beautiful and welcoming Memory Garden that provides a safe haven for families to cope with their losses. My project evolved into an opportunity to sponsor three children to attend camp.

Jake and these three children are my starfish.

I want to continue to save those that are stranded on a beach, gasping for water. I know that I cannot save everyone in this world, but I will do everything I can to reach down and toss a few back into the ocean.

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