Acting Out Gratitude

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If you were to walk along a certain Florida beach in the late 1960’s, you might run into an old gentleman feeding seagulls from a bucket of shrimp. If you were like most, you might be tempted to think, “What a waste of good shrimp on a bunch of worthless birds.”

That old gentleman’s name is Eddie. When America went to Europe in WWI, Eddie volunteered as an airplane pilot. With only nine months left in the war, Eddie became America’s most celebrated ace with 26 victories. He also earned the Medal of Honor.

After the war, he started a car company that went bankrupt. Then he purchased the Indianapolis 500 speedway. In 1933, he became the director of Eastern Airlines.

During WWII General “Hap” Arnold asked Eddie to tour American air bases and raise moral. On one of those trips over the South Pacific Eddie’s B-17 missed the refueling stop and had to ditch in South Pacific. Eddie and eight others went into three life rafts. For the next 24 days he would be lost in the vast expanse of the Pacific Ocean.

Eddie was 52.

They ran out of food on day 3. By day 8 the condition was critical. Eddie led the men in a prayer and then lay down in the raft. A sea bird suddenly landed on his head. Eddie faught through the clutter of his mind and carefully reached up and caught the bird. They ate it and then used the entrails for fish bait. Eddie later said that the sea bird not only gave them strength, it gave him hope. He took it as a sign from the Lord that he was going to survive.

When the war finally ended in 1945, Eddie resumed his post as director of Eastern Airlines. He retired in 1963 and settled in Coral Gables, Florida. But he never forgot the gift of that bird. And so, every morning, Eddie Rickenbacker would fill his bucket of fresh fish and shrimp and walk the Florida beaches to thank the gulls. Every tender morsal he tossed skyward was a tangible way to let his gratitude show.

Psalms 103:1 (A Psalm of David.) Bless the LORD, O my soul; And all that is within me, bless His holy name.
Psalms 103:2 Bless the LORD, O my soul, And forget none of His benefits;

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