Changing the World with Starfish and Stories

I never tire of hearing the starfish story. It goes like this: a little boy was throwing starfish back into the ocean after they had washed onto the shore. An old man walked by and saw the boy’s activities, and asked, “boy, have you seen how many starfish there are? There are miles and miles of beach and thousands of starfish. What difference can you possibly make throwing them in one at a time?” The boy looked down, picked up a starfish, threw it back into the ocean and said, “I made a difference for that one.”

Sometimes I look at our world and I despair. There are simply too many people in need and too many injustices being committed. There is so much pain and suffering and just too much to fix. I look at myself and I see my two hands. I only see my limitations and I only hear my voice of insecurity. We all have that voice. It tells me that I could never make a difference, and for a few moments I believe it.

But then I hear the starfish story, and I remember the people who have stories of courage and conviction. I look at my two hands and I know that if the people in these stories are changing the world and making a difference, so can I.

There are many stories that have inspired me, but one of my favorites is about Nirvan Mullick and Caine’s Arcade. An old car and a broken door handle combined with a talented, hipster film maker turned into a global educational movement for children.

Nirvan needed a car part and he went to Caine’s father’s store in East Los Angeles. It was there that Nirvan discovered Caine’s elaborate cardboard box arcade and saw Caine’s creative genius. When Nirvan discovered that he was Caine’s only customer, he decided to make Caine’s day by creating a flash mob event to help bring Caine some customers.

This small gesture went viral and changed Caine’s life. I know Nirvan and have spent time with him. All he wanted to do was make a difference in the life of one little boy and make a human interest film.

One starfish.

And now, thousands of children all across the globe are beneficiaries of Nirvan’s quiet courage and belief that he could make a difference.

You know these stories. You’ve read them too. You’ve seen them in films. They are about regular people like you and me: regular people who probably don’t think they are special, but end up doing the most remarkable and heroic things.

Imagine what we could accomplish if the stories we told ourselves were about how powerful and capable we are.

As a devoted student of Brene Brown, I believe in the power of our own stories and know that what we tell ourselves makes a difference in our lives and in the world.

Are our stories about our limitations and insecurities? Or are they about our incredible capacity for greatness?

I want us to believe that the stories of extraordinary people in films and books can be our story too.
I want us to understand that even if we are saving only one starfish, it matters to our world and is meaningful.

I tell stories for a living now. At Jerusalem U, our mission is to tell stories through films that inspire. Our films are meant to enchant and educate young Jews to help them tell their own stories and also see themselves as an important part of the incredible and collective story of the Jewish people.

With summer days fading fast and the new school year and the Jewish new year around the corner, now is an auspicious time for all of us to reflect on the stories we tell ourselves and the stories we want to tell the world.

I know people are skeptical when I say I want to change the world through films.

But I am not discouraged.

I will shout it from the Jerusalem rooftops because I know I can make a difference. And its not because I am special, it’s because we all can. And that’s the story I tell myself every day.

About the Author
Dina is the President of Jerusalem U, an innovative media organization that creates films and digital content to strengthen young Jews connection to Israel, the Israeli people and their Jewish identity. She is also the proud mom of 7 lively daughters, a recent Olah to Israel and working hard to bring more joy to humanity and more awesome to the world.