This story begins with a little girl and a big ocean.
This little girl loved to play on the beach. She loved to watch the waves roll in, and the changing colors of the water. She loved to see the waves leap up from the rocks in great fountains of spray, and she loved to see them slide up on the sand. She loved to build sand castles, and watch the rising tide fill her moats with water. She loved to see the waves wash up over her creations, and slide back into the sea leaving the sand smooth and bare, as if nothing had ever been there at all. She’d laugh, and laugh, and laugh.
She’d swim, and dive, and watch fish. She even tried to surf.
The ocean made her joyful, and the ocean smiled to do it. But the ocean never really believed she’d do anything for it. Oceans are big, and compared to an ocean, this little girl really was quite small.
One day, while running along the beach, she noticed a plastic cup floating in the surf. Not far away, she saw a plastic bag. Then she spotted a lost pair of sunglasses. And it went on and on.
To the ocean, these bits of trash feel a little like something stuck under your fingernails. It didn’t like the feeling, but it was kind of used to it. Certainly there’s a lot of it about.
The little girl didn’t leave the cup where it was, or the bag, or the sunglasses. She picked up all of them, and everything else she could see, and took them away.
Every time the ocean saw her after that, she brought a bag with her, and filled it with those bits of flotsam trash she found. And she’d swim, and run, and build sand castles, and laugh, and laugh, and laugh. And she’d clear away all the trash she’d collected.
It’s a big world, and a big ocean. She paid it a favor that was small in some ways – but you’d better believe that the ocean was as grateful for her gift to it as she was for all its gifts to her.