Saturday, December 31, 2016

One Starfish at a Time


I was fortunate in my life to cross paths with a teacher named Mary Goetze. Mary achieved fame in certain circles as a children’s choir conductor and arranger, publishing many octavos, presenting at Conferences worldwide, teaching at a University and in summer courses, both Orff and Kodaly. It was Mary who convinced me to join the Macmillan McGraw-Hill Share the Music textbook team and we had many a spirited discussion and fun evening wined and dined in New York City back in the early 90’s. Partly inspired from those collaborations, Mary got interested in vocal traditions of other cultures and continued working in that direction with travel, research, books, articles and new technologies. The last time we shared a Conference was in Brisbane, Australia in 2002.

Mary has since “retired,” but we keep in Christmas touch and I just got her newsletter and her moving news of work she’s doing with displaced people, folks in prison and other marginalized groups in the cultures that love to "win" and leave the “losers” to fend for themselves. She ended her newsletter with a story whose punch-line took my breath away. I can’t think of a better message to help us turn toward the coming year. Thank you, Mary!

A young man is walking along the ocean and sees a beach on which thousands and thousands of starfish have washed ashore. Further along he sees an old man, walking slowly and stooping often, picking up one starfish after another and tossing each one gently into the ocean.

“Why are you throwing starfish into the ocean?,” he asks.

 “Because the sun is up and the tide is going out and if I don’t throw them further in they will die.”

 “But, old man, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and starfish all along it! You can’t possibly save them all, you can’t even save one-tenth of them. In fact, even if you work all day, your efforts won’t make any difference at all.”

The old man listened calmly and then bent down to pick up another starfish and threw it into the sea.

“It made a difference to that one.”

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