The Impact of Small Actions | Some thoughts on Starfish Casters and making positive impact through small acts | Jenn Wells Design

“…And this is my way of dealing with all the sh*t going on that is our world.”

This is how a friend explained his sudden desire to give blood. Here in the US, I think it’s an understatement to say our current administration is a bit chaotic and controversial. It’s hard to know what to do or where to focus our efforts or whether we even matter. My friend has chosen to donate blood. It may have nothing to do with politics, but there’s always a need, and hey! At least it’s something.

My first reaction to his explanation was to note the seeming unrelatedness of this action to the things that were upsetting him. But after thinking it over, maybe that doesn’t matter.

I went to Tapp’s Social Summit last week and the theme was social change. Scott Michaels, founder of Starfish Casters and The C.A.U.S.E., told us the story that inspired his organization. Quick recap:

Dead Starfish Beach

There’s a beach that is known as “Dead Starfish Beach” because every year, hundreds and hundreds of starfishes wash up and die. It smells, it’s unattractive, and can’t be used for anything but everyone ignores it because “that’s the way it is.”

One day a little girl is out on the beach, picking up starfish one by one and tossing them back into the water. A passerby asks her, “Why are you throwing the starfish back? This is the way it is. You won’t make a difference to the world.” And she, precocious youth that she is, holds up a starfish and says, “Maybe not, but I can make a world of difference to this starfish.”

Making a Difference in Our Sphere

Michaels went on to talk about how our actions do matter, even if our sphere is small. We impact each of the people we come into contact with, and those impacts ripple out as they impact their circles and so on. We can choose to share our negativity or we can share positivity, even if it’s something as little as a smile.

So with that context to it, I feel like my friend’s chosen solution is as valid as any other solution. We can’t all be the ones making world-changing decisions. But we can all make small choices that spread something positive.

I’ve been helping out a bit with the League of Women Voters, I occasionally donate to charities or political organizations, and I went to March for Our Lives. But in my head it wasn’t enough. None of it was enough. What was the point? My actions won’t change anything.

But maybe I’m looking too much at the big picture. Maybe I should be looking more at the small impacts in my local sphere.

Small Actions I Can Take

As a business owner, I can feature and work with and support other businesses who are doing good things. As an individual, I can speak up when I hear statements that I believe to be wrong and immoral. As a friend, and even more as a mom, I can role model integrity and a loving attitude. And for my poor, poor dogs, whose lives are so short and who live solely for my approval, I can get off the computer and go for walks a little bit more often.

Starfish Casting

At the end of the speech, the speaker had us write the name of a loved one on a circle of paper. He then took all the pieces of paper and pressed them into buttons with a magnet on the back. We didn’t get them back because we had to “cast our starfish into the ocean.” Instead, we picked a random button and got someone else’s starfish.

Starfish button created by Starfish Casters to represent someone's loved one

This exercise is supposed to give us a tangible reminder that everyone is someone’s starfish, and if we expect other people to be good to our starfish, we need to be good to theirs. It’s cheesy, but I think it was a good reminder of how often I let my negativity run away with me in public. It’s small things, like getting angry in traffic, or being mentally judgy to people I haven’t even talked to after someone else was rude to me.

But their things that can ruin my entire day, and those small ripples might be spreading to other people. And why? What’s the point? If I get to choose the impact that I have on the world, do I really want it to be one of frustrated impotence in the political world, and actively rage-y driving?

Probably not.

So my takeaway is to look for the small acts I can do, and to take better care of my own mental health so I can leave a more positive impact on everyone else.

What small actions do you take to make the world a better place? Do you have a way to remind yourself that small actions matter?