Shane Thill awards ceremony

It Mattered To That One

I love the Starfish Story. If you haven’t heard it yet then let me share it with you. If you have heard it, just bear with me for a moment.

The story, which has a few variations, goes like this. An old man was walking down a beach one morning after a strong storm the night before. The storm had washed hundreds of thousands of helpless starfish ashore. The starfish were stranded and faced certain doom once the sun was high in the sky. Across the beach the man saw a young child walking in his direction. As the boy walked, he would pause to bend down, pick a starfish up, and toss it back into the ocean. The old man was puzzled by the boy’s behavior and once they were close enough the man yelled to the boy, “Why are you wasting your time? You can’t possibly save them all.”

To which the boy replied, “Maybe not but it mattered to that one,” as he tossed another far into the waves.

The idea that you can make a difference, even if it is just to one person, is a notion that many educators live by. But for others it’s way more than a notion–it’s a cause.

This year’s LifeChanger of the Year grand prize winner, Shane Thill, is one of them. But for Shane, he’s made the difference over and over again. He has too many starfish to count.  On our annual LifeChanger excursion where we treat our five finalists to an all-expense paid vaca–and where we announce our grand prize winner–Shane shared a story about one of his starfish.

Shane had a student years ago who by all accounts had nothing going for her. Her high school GPA was 0.09 GPA and she was on track to drop out at age 16. But then Shane came into her life and changed all of that. She graduated from a four year university, majoring in Psychology, with a 3.8 GPA. After graduation she studied in Ireland, completed her Masters and is now finishing her Doctorate.

And because I can’t do his story justice I’m sharing the video clip here.

I was walking with Shane to the grand theater the morning of this interview where he moved the audience with this story. Before we got to the oversized front doors he stopped me to tell me he had something for me. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a clear plastic bag with a single glass miniature starfish inside. As he handed it to me he said, “I want you to know, you make a difference. LifeChanger–and this recognition–makes a difference.”

The truth is we can all make a difference. Today is National Teacher Day. Let’s show some appreciation to all of the school employees who live by the starfish story.