There was an old man who used to walk on the ocean. Off into the distance, the old man noticed a small child approaching. As the child walked, she paused every so often and she grew closer. The man could see that she was occasionally bending down to pick up an object and throw it to the ocean. The girl came closer still and the man called out. “Good morning! May I ask what you are doing?”
The young girl paused, looked up, and replied, “Throwing the starfish into the ocean. The strong tide keeps washing them up and they cannot make it back by themselves. When the sun gets higher, they will die, unless I throw them back into the water!”
The man replied, “There must be thousands here on the beach! What difference does it make? You will not save them all.”
She bent down, picked up yet another starfish and threw it as far as she could into the ocean. Then she turned, smiled and said, “It made a difference to that one!”
I’ve found that I have the gift of being empathetic. It is important to recognize and understand the feelings and emotions that are experienced by our peers. As a Christ follower, it is imperative to care for other people. It will cause you to deeply experience emotions and at times match close to what others are feeling. Empathy causes you to understand others so deeply that your actions are motivated by a genuine desire to help others. That is very helpful coming from an Anabaptist background.
We believe that just as Christ came to be a servant to all, so Christians should also serve one another and others in the name of Christ. Thus, separation from a sinful world is balanced by a witness of practical assistance to a needy and hurting society. It's commitment to servanthood that I took very seriously. So, I started to look for ways to be able to help the people I am most passionate about: children.
Then I heard about Royal Family Kids Camp. It is a camp for children who are in foster care. Their mission is: “Create positive, life-changing moments for innocent children who have been victims of neglect, abuse, and abandonment.” At the new staff training, our director read to us the story of the starfish. We were all super charged up to go to camp and change the lives of all the kiddos that would be there. And it would all be butterflies and rainbows. But girl, were we ever wrong!
Camp was emotionally messy and physically draining. For the counselors, it was go, go, go, all the time. And nothing really prepared me for how just one week would change me. I got really close to my two girls. On more than one occasion, I would find myself wishing that I could take my kids home with me. Every part of me wished that I could. I loved them and they loved me. In feeling slightly helpless, I asked one of our directors what I could do about all of the things that I was feeling and struggling with. She told me that this is a path that I chose when I became a counselor and she could see me continuing year after year. The biggest thing that stuck out to me that she said was, “You are meant to open your heart up to these children. In opening it up to love, you are also opening a door to pain.”
How could I be so selfish? These babies were doing the same thing, even at camp. It was a part of their constant reality. I was asking myself, what difference does it make if I cannot take their pain away or rescue them from their demons? I couldn’t take them home.
But then, I remembered the story of the starfish. The little girl did not set out to save all of the starfish. She was focused on each one individually and concerned about bettering the life of each, even if for a moment. She did this not knowing what would happen in the future. Now, I cannot imagine doing anything different with my summers and I look forward to it year after year. Love, pain and all.
My name is Cynnandra Hilde. I live with my husband Jacob and our puppy Lilo. I went to school to study Disaster Management, but now I work at a children's early learning center. Currently, I am pursuing my CDA (Child Development Associate) to fulfill my passion of working with kids. Even though I'm pretty new to the area, I am always looking for ways to get involved in the community and make new friends.