It happened every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched
in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. Ed walks out to the end of the
pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of
the sun is a golden bronze now.

Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing
out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts…and his
bucket of shrimp.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone.
Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking,
winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of
the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings
fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the
hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say
with a smile, 'Thank you. Thank you.'

In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave.

He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place.

he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few
of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs,
and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to
the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the
water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or,
to onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird
world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimp.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty.
They can seem altogether unimportant … maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things,
at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.

Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida . That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better.

His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker.
He was a famous hero in World War I, and then he was in WWII. On one of
his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew
went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their
plane, and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun.
They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. By the
eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds
of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were
Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.

men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple
devotional service and prayed for a miracle. They tried to nap. Eddie
leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on.
All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft…

Suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap.
It was a seagull!

Old Ed would later describe how he sat
perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a
squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore
the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal of it – a
very slight meal for eight men. Then they used the intestines for bait.
With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait . . . and
the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able
to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after
24 days at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never
forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull… And he never
stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.

(Max Lucado, "In The Eye of the Storm", pp..221, 225-226)

PS: Eddie Rickenbacker
was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he was race car driver.
In WWI he was a pilot and became America 's first ace. In WWII he was an
instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions with the combat
pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero. And now you know
another story about the trials and sacrifices that brave men have
endured for your freedom.


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