Making a Difference – One Starfish at a Time

by John Miles, CEO


“One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up, and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!”



After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said, “I made a difference for that one.” 



The starfish story by Loren Eisley is a poignant reminder that each life you touch matters, even if it’s only one. I became a neutral and later founded an ADR firm because ADR helps people. I’ve witnessed time and again how ADR sets people free from the destructive emotions generated by conflict. 



Our world today is dominated by division and strife. The issues that divide us are large and complex, and we seem small and powerless by comparison. Like the man on the beach, it’s easy to conclude that there’s nothing we can do. There is truth in this belief. Suffering is part of life. There is nothing any of us is going to do to end sickness or injustice. However, that doesn’t mean we can’t make a difference. 



Last week we reopened our offices and once again offered parties the opportunity to mediate in person. The response has been overwhelming. 



Our neutrals are extraordinarily talented. They are gifted at the art of peacemaking. The pandemic and resulting government shutdown required them to conduct mediations and arbitrations virtually. I’m thankful we were able to meet clients’ needs in this manner; however, our neutrals are most effective in person. There’s something special that happens when they engage with someone one on one. This week I’ve once again observed the difference our neutrals make in the lives of others. People arrive anxious and angry and depart relieved and thankful that their dispute has been resolved. 



We’ve all have talents and opportunities to use our gifts to benefit others. I encourage each of you to make a difference – one starfish at a time. 




John Miles is the CEO of Miles Mediation & Arbitration. In addition to his executive duties, he mediates high-value and complex matters, on request at a per diem rate. He oversees neutral training and development at Miles.