Starfish Story

Tiny blue flowers by the car park at work

We moved last October. This was a big one for us. Nearly 200 miles north west into the Midlands. We left my dad and two sons back in Kent, along with good friends and forty years of life and personal history

Arriving in late autumn gives a bleak introduction to a place… dank, damp and dark is the theme for much of British wintertime. The middle of the country is also murkier, grey skies more frequent.

Despite this we have found a good deal of beauty and begun the process of settling. It seems that by taking it one day at a time it’s possible to adjust to a new world. Baby steps.

The biggest shift for me has been in my work life. I found a job in our first month here and started work at a local care centre as activities coordinator. A background in teaching and admin has been a godsend.

You may have read that social care is a challenging sector to work in. I can vouch for that. For me there have been challenges around learning what the role entails, being a worker not a manager (I’ve been at the “top” of my previous profession for several years as an independent education consultant and specialist teacher). There have been challenges around being employed rather than self employed (turns out I have difficulty taking direction, who knew?) And around physical capacity in a job which needs you to be active and mobile for the majority of the day.

I have found it challenging that there is so much need, the end of life can be very hard. There are moments of joy and laughter too but some days the witnessing of pain feels overwhelming.

I have wanted to run away more than once, bury my head under a duvet and give in to gloom. What’s the point?

A story I read the other night is helping me see that there’s a different way to measure my success and effectiveness in this brave new world.

One day a man heads down to the beach for his daily walk. Down by the shore he sees a person dancing near the surf. As he draws nearer he sees it isn’t someone dancing after all but a young man who is picking up starfish from the sand and throwing them into the sea.

“What are you doing, friend?” Says the man. “Well the sun is rising, and the tide is turning, and soon these starfish will be stranded and they will dry out and die. I am throwing them back into the sea.”

“How foolish!” Said the man. “This beach goes on for miles and you can see there are hundreds, thousands, of starfish. You will never succeed! How can you make a difference to the power of the tide?”

The young man picked up another starfish and hurled it back into the sea. “Well I made a difference to that one.”

I may have told it wrong but you get the idea. Life is messy. Often we have to make impossible and life changing decisions. We feel powerless in the face of circumstances, we are so small and the forces around us so vast and impersonal.

But. The belief that we can create change, making a difference in small but meaningful ways.

This is the power of hope.

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