At 16, I won a prize in a local poetry contest—I think it was second place—for this:

I walked along a lonely shore
Upon the just-damp land
And left behind me all the way
My footprints in the sand.
Though some washed clear, a few remained
To tell where I had been,
And someone may have seen and thought
Of something new to him,
For those few footprints somehow changed
The pattern of the land.
I left my mark upon the world—
My footprints in the sand.

Many years later, I heard the Starfish Story. You know that one, don’t you? If not, just Google it. It’s the final line that matters here:

“I made a difference to that one.”

That has been my main life-goal for a very long time: to make a difference to that one. I knew it at 16, which was 50 years ago, when I wrote that poem. My mark on the world would be just footprints in the sand that might happen to make some small positive difference in another’s life.  I’m still working in it.

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