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COLUMN: Remember to thank God

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By George Smith

The Psalmist said, “Let everything that hath breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord!” We need to look for things to be thankful for. A thankful spirit should be the foundation of our lives.  

Recently I read a story of such a thankful spirit. It was told by the late Paul Harvey. He said it was gratitude that caused an old man to come to a broken-down pier on the eastern coast of Florida every Friday until his death in l973. He would come walking slowly and slightly stooped with a large bucket of shrimp.  The sea gulls would flock to the old man and he would feed them from his bucket.

In October l942, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker was on a mission in a B-17 but he and his men become lost over the South Pacific. They lost radio contact before their plane went down in the ocean. For nearly two months he and his companions floated in two rafts.

They fought the waves, the weather, the scorching sun, sleepless nights in fear with sharks ramming their rafts. Their worst enemy was hunger. After eight days of floating their rations were gone and only a miracle could save them.

Listen to Captain Eddie's 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.

“Then 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 Paul Harvey said, 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, for some unexplained reason, landed on Captain Eddie's head.

Captain Eddie made it and he never forgot, because every Friday evening before sunset for 20 years he came with a bucket of shrimp to feed the gulls – to remember the one special gull which, on a day long past, gave itself without a struggle ... like manna in the wilderness – that they might live.

The gratitude that caused Captain Eddie Rickenbacker to set aside time for more than 20 years to mark that event, should be the kind of gratitude that every Christian proclaims. God has given us so much – life, provisions for every need and even his son. That is why it is so important to remember and be thankful.