Eddie Rickenbacker 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!
He 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 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, later in life, he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimp to feed the gulls. Just a bucket of shrimp and a heart full of gratitude.
To survive is great. To remember to be grateful is even better. The one without the other is worthless.