I'm honored to be featured as the main character in a wonderful children's story written by my friend Cheryl Cutting.
Cheryl's story illustrates the joy and value of being a person of service to those around you. A wonderful message for all of us for sure...but Cheryl did a masterful job at writing the story in a way that a child can grasp and understand. My own 7 year old son loves it and in fact has read it twice now.
I would recommend that all take a read through this and find an opportunity to share it with your kids as I'm confident that they will appreciate the powerful message.
Not all stars belong to the sky! - Unknown
JEFF’S GIFT: Throwing Stars
By Cheryl A. Cutting
“Being of service doesn’t have to mean doing something big,” said Jeff.
“But with so much need in the world – how can we possibly make a difference if we
don’t do something big?” Alia wanted to know.
“That’s a great question and it reminds me of a story,” he replied.
As they sat on the beach scrunching their toes in the warm sand, Jeff shared this story:
Early one morning a man was walking along the beach. The sun was shining and it
was a beautiful day. Off in the distance he could see a girl going back and forth
between the beach and the surf’s edge. Back and forth she went again and again.
As the man approached he could see there were hundreds of starfish stranded on
the sand as a result of a storm the night before, and the girl was tossing them one by
one back into the surf.
“Young lady,” he asked, “why are you throwing starfish into the sea?”
“The sun is up, the tide is going out, and if I don’t throw them back they will die,”
“But don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and stranded starfish all
along it? You cannot possibly make a difference.” He replied.
The girl listened politely, paused and then bent down, picked up another starfish
and gently threw it back into the ocean. She then turned back to the man and said
with a smile,“I sure made a difference for that one!”
“Did the girl in the story make a difference for each starfish she threw back into the sea?”
“Absolutely!” replied Alia.
“Do you think any of those starfish are ever going to come back and thank her for saving
their lives? Or maybe they’ll send her a nice note in the mail expressing their
appreciation?” Jeff teased with a gleam in his eye.
Alia laughed at the silly thought of getting a card in the mail from a starfish.“No, I’m
pretty sure they won’t,” she said with a smile.
“So, if we don’t serve others for the gratitude and we don’t do it for the glory, then why
do it?” He asked her.
Letting sand sift through her fingers, Alia thought about the question.“Because we can
and because it’s a good thing to help people,” she replied.
“That’s certainly part of the answer, but there’s a difference between helping and
serving,” said Jeff. “If I help you then in some way I see you as less able than I am. But if
I serve you then we’re equals who simply have different abilities and resources.”
Alia was confused and it showed in the look on her face.
Jeff thought for a moment then picked up a piece of driftwood and drew two candles in
“There’s an old saying which says:
A candle loses nothing by lighting another candle
“If we’re both in the dark and both have candles but my candle has a flame and yours
doesn’t, then I can serve you by lighting your candle, right?” asked Jeff.
“Right,” Alia replied hesitantly.
“However it doesn’t mean you’re any less than me just because you don’t have a
candle with a flame. And if I light your candle then what is my reward?”
Alia jumped up smiling and said,“I know! More light!”
“Exactly! Good job!” Jeff cheered.
“So by serving others we can light up the world and also leave our mark in some way,
right?” Alia asked. She liked the idea of making a difference even though she was still
just a kid.
Jeff got up, wiped sand from his shorts and walked a little ways leaving footprints on the
beach behind him. When he turned around he said,
“Yes, Alia, being of service is like leaving footprints in the sand. Our footprints are the
result of our actions but quickly fade away, however as we make our imprints we also
carry some of the sand away with us, right?”
“Right,” she replied.
“So if we spend time lighting candles and throwing starfish back into the sea then even
such small gestures can make our‘footprints’ meaningful and we get to carry some of
the good away with us too,” he continued.
“I sort of understand what you mean,” she told him.
“The footprints the girl made while tossing starfish into the sea faded as the waves
washed up on shore, erasing any sign she had ever been there. But the difference she
made in the lives of those starfish is what remains. Isn’t that cool?” Jeff asked as he lay
back down on the sand and closed his eyes.
“Yes, it’s very cool, but what do I have to give?” Alia asked. “I’m just a kid.”
While she waited for Jeff’s reply Alia twirled back and forth making swishy footprints in
the damp sand. When she stopped to inspect her impressions the sun went behind a dark
cloud; this made her shiver just a bit as the chilly sea water lapped at her feet and began
to erase her footprints.
With his eyes still closed Jeff finally answered:“The girl in the story was just a kid too
yet she made a difference by the tiny act of tossing starfish back into the sea. Maybe she
gave us the secret: if we walk through life throwing stars - if we just do little good deeds
here and there along the way - this can add up to making a big difference one small step
at a time.
“I like her idea! I want to be a star-thrower too!” Alia announced as she plopped herself
back down on the sand.“
“Ok, with your star-thrower goal in mind the next question is who do you want to travel
with?” Jeff asked as he sat back up to look at her. “Good travel companions make all the
difference, and our truest friends are lighthouse beacons on our journey.”
“What’s a lighthouse beacon,” asked Alia.
Pointing down the beach in the direction of the old lighthouse, Jeff explained:
“A lighthouse beacon is the light that shines out over the waters at night to warn ships of
treacherous reefs and rocks; the beacon keeps ships out of harm's way and guides them
home to a safe harbor.”
They sat together quietly for a while watching the waves, then Jeff continued:
“Choosing to live a life of service means there will be plenty of joys, but there will also
be challenges and even some treacherous reefs and rocks. It’s during those times you
must allow others to serve you, be a beacon for you; which is why it is vital to have true
and trusted travel companions.”
Alia dug her toes deeper into the sand and stared quietly out at the horizon for a
long time. Jeff was patient, giving her time to think about all he had said.
As the sun finally broke through the clouds and covered the beach in rays of golden light,
the answer she had been searching for seemed to burst into Alia’s mind at the same time.
“So if I’m going to be a true star-thrower then there will be times I am the thrower and
other times when I am the star…is that right?” she asked excitedly.
“Yes, that’s exactly right, Alia. To truly be of service we must learn to be good at giving
and receiving,” said Jeff.
As the sun sank slowly into the sea they began their walk back up the beach.
“Alia, you’re on the threshold of a grand adventure, but you can only make the journey
one step at a time,” he said. “Be curious, take risks, listen to your heart and give
everything you do your best shot. Try to do this in every facet of your life then watch to
see what amazing things happen. And if you get lost along the way always turn back to
“Thanks Jeff. I learned a lot today and I’m excited to become a star-thrower just like
you,” she said and then happily skipped the rest of the way home.
That night as she lay in her bed, Alia had a vision of millions of stars dancing in her
head…and just as she was drifting off to sleep she tossed the first one back into the sea.
© Cheryl Cutting 2012
This is a fictional story about an actual gift I received from Jeff Evans. I hope you
enjoyed reading about this gift as much as I have enjoyed sharing it with you. Remember
what Jeff said to Alia: Listen to your heart, give everything you do your best shot and
look for ways to be a star thrower along the way! If you do this then amazing things are
sure to happen!
By all accounts, Jeff Evans is just a regular guy; he is a down-to-earth country boy who could live next door to you and is about as nice and unassuming a person as you’d ever hope to meet.
That being said, Jeff is also an acclaimed adventurer, speaker, author and world-class mountaineer and climbing guide who has chosen to live a life of service. It is difficult to put into words the magnitude of Jeff’s willingness to sacrifice in order to be of service to others.
Jeff can be captivating and inspiring, but in the most down-home sort of way, and his slight southern accent puts you at ease as he dances you towards the answers to questions you may have. Like cool lemonade on a hot summer day– Jeff both refreshes us and slows us down so we can see more clearly what living a life of service truly means. He is a role model for me and this story was my attempt to give him a gift in return for the gifts he has given me.
*The Star Thrower story told by Jeff is credited to Loren C. Eiseley (1907–1977), although it is a variation on the original.