A Bucket of Shrimp

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. Invariably, one of the gulls
lands on his sea-bleached, weather-beaten hat – an old
military hat he’s been wearing for years.

When 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, ‘a guy
that’s a sandwich shy of a picnic,’ as my kids might
say. 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 back in World
War II. 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. 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.

They 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.
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 – a very slight meal for eight men
– of it. 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
lifesaving 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.

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

PS: Eddie was also an Ace in WW I and started Eastern
Airlines.

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