Does It Matter? 728.5

I run into a lot of cynics. The nicer ones commend my good intentions, but one way or another they tell me I’m wasting my time. They tell me I’m a small voice in the wilderness, a salmon swimming up stream. After all, people are what they are and they’re not going to change.

So, do I really think that my little 90-second talks about ethics and character really make any difference? Yeah, I guess I do. Sure, there are times when I feel worn out and wonder whether it’s worth it, but one reason I’ve always been able to snap back is that I have high hopes and low expectations.

You see, I don’t expect to turn sinners into saints or to eradicate evil, corruption, stupidity, or selfishness. But I do think that with a little encouragement, all of us can and many of us do choose to be better, one decision at a time.

I love the story about a young boy walking on a beach who comes upon hundreds of starfish abandoned on the sand by a rapidly receding tide. Realizing they’ll die unless they get back to the water, he starts picking them up one by one and throws them back into the sea. A passerby makes fun of him for wasting his time. “Foolish boy, there are too many starfish out here. Many are dead already. Throwing a few back won’t make any difference.” Undaunted, the boy looks at the living creature in his hand and says, “It will for this one.”

Cynics worry so much about what can’t be done that they never understand what can be done, one starfish at a time. Every one of us can make a difference, not only in our own lives, but in the lives of others and in the character of our homes, our neighborhoods, and our communities. If we’re not part of the solution, we’re part of the problem.

This is Michael Josephson reminding you that character counts.

Comments 17

  1. Michael,
    You’re not wasting your time. I first heard your commentaries on KNX 1070 and now get your emails. You program helps me stay focused on what is important and think of the bigger picture in life. There is so much negativity and pessimism in the world today. I refuse to listen to it. Life is far too precious to waste. Yesterday is history and long forgotten, tomorrow is a mystery and who knows what will happen. Today is the moment and the true meaning of living out life. I love every day. Thank you for your words of wisdom.

  2. I love the starfish story – and als what E.Huille says ” You can’t do everything but you can do something, and you must not let what you can’t do stop you from doing what you can do’ and then there is the saying that evil persists when good people do nothing. I believe if just one person makes changes for the better then it is all worth it. Elizabeth Clayton, Fiji Islands

  3. I am a family & consumer science teacher – and I always include a segment on ethics and character in my 8th grade classes, as part of our career unit. I appreciate receiving all of your commentaries and often use them to pose ethical questions. Believe me, your postings really do matter – they can make all the difference in the world on that one day when someone makes a better choice and they do so because of the ethical questions that you may have raised to them. If we set examples by our own behavior and act on our ethics, it has to positively affect the students we teach. Thank you so much for everything you do, Debra

  4. Absolutely correct! I recently heard a quote about success and failure. I’ll paraphrase. Success or failure isn’t the result of one cataclysmic or wondrous event. It is a series of small choices we make everyday. One doughnut won’t make you obese. One doughnut everyday will. Small decisions make a big difference.

  5. It does matter. One day while driving along with my 7 year old son and 5 year old daughter. Traffic came to a stop, we were on a three lane street. A large empty carbdboard box was blocking traffic. When I came up to the box, I turned on my hazard lights, got out. And along with another motorist, pulled the box off of the street and onto the sidewalk. As I walked back to my car a passenger in a car yelled at us, “thank you”, but the best part, was when I got back in my car, my 7 year old boy said, “papi, is that being a good person, moving to box so people van go home and see their kids” to which I replied. Ofcourse it is. I did it because it was the right thing to do. Always, remember character DOES count.
    Jc Torrance California

  6. Yes. It matters, I am a mother and wife, I really appreciate your talents and share this messages of wisdom!! Thank you, God bless you and your family.

  7. The attonneys in my court roll their eyes when I start my stories but I tell them anyway. My wife & I were on the Gold line, leaving Union Station in L.A. & a lady and a little girl sat down across from us. She looked at me and said “I love you”. I said OK, tell me about that. She told me that, 2 years ago, she was in my court and I gave her a long talk about sobriety, AA and therapy. She went on to say that she had been sober for 2 years, she got her daughter back 18 months ago, she has a job & an apartment and her 10 year old daughter is getting all A’s in school. She then thanked me for saving her life and I told her that she saved her own life. I only gave her a chance. If I were to write a book it would be called “The Lady on the Train”. She came back to my court several times to let me know how she was doing. So don’t let the cynics discourage you. Keep up the good fight.

  8. Michael, bless you for this and all the other parables and commentary with which you have enriched our lives. May you keep speaking as long as your voice holds, writing as long as your hands can move, and believing as long as your heart loves.
    Though I am not at this moment doing a commute to a job, and do not hear you as often on the radio, I love being able to come here and read your commentaries. I believe and hope that, long after you are gone, people you have inspired will carry on your work.

  9. You are the best. To paraphrase a movie dialog from ‘Galaxy Quest,’ never give up, never surrender. I moved from LA to Las Vegas 8 years ago. But I can still hear your wisdom through your weekly emails. Thank you for all you do. You are the best!

  10. Michael, I have admired your work for sometime; what you are doing is unique and greatly needed. I am familiar with the starfish story and it always penetrates me deeply. I heard a radio program the other day about the individual Israelis and Palestinians who are connecting with each other and even conducting civil disobedience by crossing geographic boarders to create human ties. Those connections bridge understanding and are the basis of many intercultural exchange programs however the value of these connections can reinvigorate the human spirit right here at home. Even small yet sincere efforts can make a difference although sometimes the seeds planted take time to germinate & flourish. I train adult leaders and often refer to your work. Personally, the message you sent about having high hopes and low expectations was most striking for me. Perhaps I need to lower my expectations so as not to feel disillusioned in the ordinary dynamics of life.

  11. Dear Michael,
    Hope this finds you in the best of health and in an ecstatic mood, as always!
    Your 90 seconds commentaries are simply great. I share them with a thousands of my friends and colleagues on a weekly basis. And, I can assure you that they are providing a lot of people, the necessary encouragement to be better, to make a difference at least in their own lives.
    May you be blessed with a wonderful health & long life to carry out your life’s mission!
    Your humble servant,

  12. Michael, while I too have a busy day and don’t always make the time to read all that you write. I have never picked 1 article to read and been disappointed. I work with 22 other staff and I send the snipits I do read out to all of them. You see, we work in the business of helping people and if character in our profession is not important then why are we here?? You encourage, tell the truth and bring the ‘common sense’ items to light. Keep doing what you are doing. Every time you doubt yourself, think of the people who need to have that reassurance they are doing the right thing. You are a motivator and that is a huge asset!
    Take good care of yourself!!
    Lea Langford

  13. So much pain could be prevented with so little kindness. It is important that we each do our part to improve the world. Each cell in the body has an impact on its overall health.

  14. Your commentary sounds off like thunder in this endless vast of programmed radio. Love listening to your commentary it helps me practice better ways. Keep up the good work.

  15. In regards Do you Make a Difference, let me tell you that I read you commentaries every week and find them extremely helpful in some of the work I do with HS students in a very rural area of Vermont! I retired as the Director of Athletics at the University of Vermont and have continued at the school Principal’s request to share views of the real purpose of Athletics with their students. I attend sessions every week with specific teams and my most compelling message involves talking to them about the Real Values that Athletic participation provides an individual! I know you know it is not about the wins and loses or any Championships but about the friendships and life lessons like having integrity and such! The lessons are endless and I often find an inspiration from your commentaries! So you do make a difference. A funny thing has happened at the school I work with, they won State Championships in Soccer, basketball,and baseball this past year and last year the Hockey team won as well!
    The need for understanding relationships and how teams should act toward one another has assisted in making a much better community within the school! That’s my belief and it would take some doing to convince me otherwise! Thanks for all your insight and sharing! Rick Farnham

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