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, 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 which 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 companions
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.
In Captain Eddie's own words, "Cherry," that was the B- 17 pilot, Captain William Cherry, "read the service that
afternoon, and we finished with a prayer for deliverance and a hymn of praise. There was some talk, but it tapered off
in the oppressive heat. With my hat pulled down over my eyes to keep out some of the glare, I dozed off."
Now this is still Captian Rickenbacker talking..."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. You know that Captain Eddie made it. And now you also know...that he never forgot. Because
every Friday evening, about sunset...on a lonely stretch along the eastern Florida seacoast...you could see an old
man walking...white-haired, bushy-eyebrowed, slightly bent. His bucket filled with shrimp was to feed the gulls...to
remember that one which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle...like manna in the wilderness.
"The Old Man and the Gulls" from Paul Harvey's The Rest of the Story
by Paul Aurandt, 1977, quoted in Heaven Bound Living, Knofel Stanton, Standard, 1989, p. 79-80.
Sometimes we as Christians need to stop along life's road and look back. Although it might have been winding and steep, we can see how God directed us
by His faithfulness. Here's how F.E. Marsh described what the Christian can see when he looks
The deliverances the Lord has wrought (Deut. 5:15).
The way He has led (Deut. 8:2)
The blessings He has bestowed (Deut. 32:7-12).
The victories He has won (Deut. ll:2-7).
The encouragements He has given (Josh. 23:14).
When we face difficulties, we sometimes forget God's past faithfulness. We see only the detours and the dangerous path. But look back and you will also
see the joy of victory, the challenge of the climb, and the presence of your traveling Companion who has promised never to leave you nor forsake you.