Editor’s Note: On June 12, 2021, Pastor Josh Meyer, Mosaic Leadership Minister, gave the commencement address to the 2021 graduating class of Dock Mennonite Academy (Lansdale, PA). In the address, Meyer shared three stories with the graduates. The stories offered challenges and wisdom on how to pursue a meaningful life. Here is a story from Meyer’s speech.
A number of years ago I heard about a pastor who was at the beach with his wife and two kids. They were walking along the water picking up seashells – except they weren’t full shells. They were like those little fragments of shells, the kind of “sea shell shrapnel” that shows up by the water. The kids were running around with these handfuls of broken shells, trying to see who could pick up the most.
Suddenly, the family saw something floating in the water. They stopped to watch and realized that about 30 feet offshore was a giant starfish, just bobbing in the water.
Now if you’re a kid, getting your hands on a starfish is like striking gold, so after watching it for a while, the youngest son got a look in his eye, like, “That starfish is mine,” and he went charging into the water after it.
He only got about halfway, though, before he stopped and came back. The dad, from the shore, reassured him, “It’s alright, buddy – you can go. Go get the starfish!”
The kid went back in after it, and he got even closer this time, but before he made it all the way, he stopped again and came back in. The dad continued to encourage him, “You can do it, you were so close, go back out and grab it.”
The little boy ran out one more time, and this time he got all the way there, right next to the starfish. Literally all he had to do was reach out and pick it up, but instead he turned and ran back to the beach.
Now the whole family was yelling, “Buddy, you were right there! What’s the problem? Just pick it up!”
And finally, the little boy yelled back, “I can’t! My hands are full of shells.”
Sometimes we need to say no to good things in order to say yes to the best things. And if you want to lead a meaningful life, it will require the difficult but necessary skill of learning to distinguish between the starfish and the seashells.