A man was walking on the beach, occasionally stooping over, picking something up, and placing it in the ocean. An observer asked what he was doing. “See these starfish on the sand?” the man replied. “They’ve washed up in the surf, and will dry out and die.” The observer said, “But there are so many of them. How can it make a difference?” The man picked up one, put it into the water, and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
At times I feel over whelmed with the work my wife and I are doing to help young people cope with conflict in peaceful ways. Sometimes it feels as through the whole world is against what we are doing and is in fact going in the other direction. Or when we see that a current trend in the martial arts world is “extreme” fighting and we see that the martial arts could instead be moving forward and leading the way for self-understanding and peace, we feel despair and think, “Is what we are doing going to make any difference?”
Then I remember that story of the starfish I feel somewhat renewed by its message. Or when I am with a group of young kids and see first hand that look on their face when I am teaching them about understanding and resolving conflict peacefully and I know that I am doing the right thing I feel renewed. And I feel encouraged when I meet fine and sensitive martial artist teachers that understand the need for a martial arts education that helps our children learn about themselves and are initiating special programs for them that give them the skills of selfunderstanding. Then I realize that there are others out there who care and are doing the right thing. And I realize that in time these numbers will grow, that every child who has been taught to understand and resolve conflict peacefully will affect others, and then these people will influence more people and so on and on it will go because what is good and kind will prevail. It is the natural way. And it is very powerful, like a small flower growing up through concrete. But one must have patience. The giant redwood tree grows ever so slowly from a very small seed yet it lasts a thousand years.
I use to ask my students in class would they rather have one million dollars right now or one penny doubled a day for a month (with 31 days)? Some of the wiser kids opt for the penny a-day option but most want those one million dollars. But actually exponentially one penny every day for one 31-day month comes out to over five million dollars! And this is true in life when you are doing the right thing. It may take longer but over time each of us can make a real difference. I figure that if I can really teach just two people to understand and resolve conflict peacefully and they in turn teach four people and those four people in turn teach eight and then…
So don’t loose heart those of you who may feel alone in trying to use their martial arts to help young people to intelligently cope with conflict. Don’t worry if you feel that most of the world is going in the other direction. Just keep focused and don’t ever give up! Just look at your young students and feel their need. Know that they look to you for answers to the world situation. Know that they want to ask you what they can do to live healthier and happy lives. And know that you do make a difference in each and every one of their lives. For there is no higher goal to attain than peace. If we keep focused and don’t give up then we will change the world for the better, one starfish at a time.