5th Station – Making a difference


You will need to find a quiet place to read a short poem where you can let the story “speak” to you whilst you reflect on its meanings. You might want to have a dictionary to hand (hardcopy or online) and will need internet access and a computer or pen and paper for the research/ creative writing task at the end.


Big problems call for big solutions and that can be daunting when you want to be of service but don’t know where to start. It is all too easy to feel powerless to make a difference in the face of seemingly insurmountable challenges, but often the best place to start is by taking small steps and doing whatever you can.


Read the poem slowly. Read it twice. During the first reading, try to get the general idea of what the poem is about. During the second reading, highlight the words that are new or unknown to you and find out what their meaning is with the help of a dictionary.

The Difference he Made by Randy Poole

Amidst the morning mist of the swift returning tide
I set out on my daily run, my Walkman on my side.
Lost within my private world apart from cares and woes
I ran along the moistened shore, the sand between my toes.

In the distance, I saw a boy, as busy as can be.
He was running, stopping, picking up, and tossing in the sea.
Just what he threw, I couldn’t tell, I looked as I drew near.
It seemed to be a rock or shell- as I approached him I could hear:

“Back you go, where you belong. Your safe now hurry home.
Your family’s waiting for you little starfish, hurry on!”
It seemed the evening tide had washed the starfish on the shore,
And the swift receding water left a thousand there or more.

And this self-appointed saviour, was trying one by one
To toss them back into the sea, against the racing sun.
I saw his plight was hopeless, that most of them would die.
I called out from my private world, “Hey Kid, why even try?”

“Must be at least a thousand here, strewn along the beach,
And even if you had the time, most you’ll never reach.
You really think it makes a difference, to waste your time this way?”
And then I paused and waited, just to hear what he would say.

He stooped and took another, and looked me in the eye.
“It makes a difference to this one Sir, this starfish will not die!”
With that, he tossed the little life, back where there was hope.
He stooped to take another. I could tell this was no joke.
The words that he spoke to me cut like a surgeon’s knife.
Where I saw only numbers, he saw only life.
He didn’t see the multitude of starfish on the sand
He only saw the little life he held there in his hand.

He didn’t stop to argue, to prove that he was right.
He just kept tossing starfish in the sea with all his might.
So I too stopped, and I picked up, and I tossed into the sea,
And I thought, just what a difference, that this boy has made in me.


Take a moment to reflect on the poem. In particular consider last line: “And I thought, just what a difference, that this boy has made in me”. What do you think the author means by this line? What might the difference be? Do you think this experience made just one difference or more? Which other characters mentioned in the poem would have been affected and how?

Now think about your own life and the experiences that have made a difference to you. Can you think of someone or something that has made a difference to you in the same way that the writer’s life was impacted by their encounter with the boy? Does this experience help you to understand the importance of service (however seemingly small) and the impact that it can have? In what ways?

Write a short 1-2 paragraph reflection about the person or experience that has made a positive difference in your life and what the impact has been for you.

Now choose one of the following activities to consolidate your learning. Either:

(1) Think about the people in your community that have made a difference to the lives of others through their commitment to service. Research and write a short account of them and the difference that they have made. You might want to use online reports or news articles as sources and include a photo if you are working online. If you are working in an online group, discuss your research with your classmates.


(2) Write a poem of your own, inspired by the story of the boy and the starfish, of no less than 20 lines describing a imaginary encounter that demonstrates the positive power of service. Your teacher might ask you to use a specific structure for your poem or ask you to write in a style of your choice.

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