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Terry Johnson has shared with nurses for years the wonderful essay entitled “The Star Thrower” by Loren Eiseley and in that sharing has likened nurses as “caregivers” to his “star thrower.” In the essay, Eiseley tells of a man who walks each morning along the beach on an island. The island’s main source of income is the gathering, processing, and selling of sea shells and creatures found along the shore after the morning tide. Eiseley, during his early morning walks, takes note of a lone figure who arises much earlier than others and each morning stops and picks up the star fish that have been washed up on the shore. This lone figure sees, stops, and then picks up the star fish and tosses them back into the surf – in effect saving them. Another author in commentary on Eiseley’s essay notes that the “Star Thrower” again and again acts against the “anti-life” that is in the world by his solitary acts of redemption. I have always believed that this illustration is an exquisite metaphor for the work that nurses do in speaking to the “anti-life” (disease, disability, death) that is in the world.But, it is evident that “star throwing” is not for everyone and many of us wonder just how and why we become involved in this redemptive act. Studs Terkel in his book Working explores why an individual chooses their career among so many options. He noted that for some individuals work was much more than a job or occupation, but moved rather into the realm of a “calling.”

“Most of us are looking for a calling, not a job. Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirits. Jobs are not big enough for people.”

Terkel goes on to add:

“For work to be authentically human, it must be about a search, too, for daily meaning as well as cash; for astonishment rather than torpor; in short, for a sort of life rather than a Monday through Friday sort of dying.”