It is gratitude that prompted an old man to visit an old broken pier on the eastern seacoast of Florida. Every Friday night, until his death in 1973, he would return, walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp. The sea gulls would flock to this old man, and he would feed them from his bucket. Many years before, during WWII, in October 1942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 to deliver an important message to General Douglas MacArthur in New Guinea. But there was an unexpected detour that would hurl Captain Eddie into the most harrowing adventure of his life.
Somewhere over the South Pacific the Flying Fortress became lost beyond the reach of radio. Fuel ran dangerously low, so the men ditched their plane in the ocean. For nearly a month Captain Eddie and his crew would fight the water, and the weather, and the scorching sun. They spent many sleepless nights recoiling as giant sharks rammed their rafts. The largest raft was nine by five. The biggest shark…ten feet long.
But of all their enemies at sea, one proved most formidable: starvation. Eight days out, their rations were long gone or destroyed by the salt water. It would take a miracle to sustain them. And a miracle occurred. Captain Rickenbacker describes it: “Something landed on my head. I knew that it was a sea gull. I don’t know how I knew, I just knew. Everyone else knew too. No one said a word, but peering out from under my hat brim without moving my head, I could see the expression on their faces. They were staring at that gull. The gull meant food…if I could catch it.”
And the rest, as they say, is history. Captain Eddie caught the gull. Its flesh was eaten. Its intestines were used for bait to catch fish. The survivors were sustained and their hopes renewed because a lone sea gull, uncharacteristically hundreds of miles from land, offered itself as a sacrifice. As a result of that “gift” Captain Eddie and his crew made it.
And the most beautiful thing is, he never forgot it. Every Friday evening, about sunset…on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast…you could see an old man walking…white-haired, bushy-eye-browed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp, he would feed the gulls – to remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle…like manna in the wilderness. (Paul Aurandt, “The Old Man and the Gulls”, Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.)
This Harvest Thanksgiving, may we not forget the One who came to lay down His life for us that we would not perish but live, in abundance and for eternity. May we return to give thanks to the Lord Jesus Christ by stepping out to lay our pledges upon his altar – offering our time, talents and tithes as servants truly thankful and joyfully engaged in His Kingdom work – building up the Body of Christ and reaching out with the love of Christ.
May God bless us as we remember to give thanks, not only with our lips by in our lives….all for Jesus, ALL for Jesus!
In His power and for His glory,
EBlast October 2018