Every Friday evening, old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier. Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimp. He walked out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. Before long, 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 enveloped Ed, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. He stood there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he did, you could 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.
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 to his home . 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 and 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 because His full name is Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero in World War I, and then he was famous again in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down. Miraculously, all of the men survived the water landing by crawled out of their plane, and into a life raft.
Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun and they fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. 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 or even if they were alive. Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.
The men adrift 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 on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft. Then suddenly, Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull! Ed 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.
With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after baking in the scorching sun for 24 days. Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that life-saving seagull. And, he never stopped saying, ‘Thank you.’ either. I wonder, if you had seen old Ed what would you have thought of him? More importantly, would you have taken the time to learn the rest of his story?
There are people all around you that have amazing stories. Some endured unimaginable hardship, sacrifice, loss, heartbreak and agony. Others have had astounding success and lived to see generations of their family happy and productive. Others did the best they could with the little they had and were good to all they met. The stories of so many are filled with the things that movies are made of yet we don’t realize it. Why? Because we just don’t take the time.
I want to present a challenge to all who read this. This week, this month, take the time to talk to someone beyond your age group. Get to know them and start to hear their story. Who are they? What have they done in life and how have they made a difference in the lives of others? What was life like when they were a kid? Were they heroic in anything they did? Where did they live and what did their parents do? Did they have a career, a family, a life different from what they have now?
You will be amazed at what you find out. The lives of those around you are filled with adventure, mystery and sadness. People are like treasured books waiting to be opened and enjoyed with a good cup of coffee. Take the time to learn about someone and it might just surprise you. There are magnificent experiences waiting to be told that are just beneath the surface. All you need to do is ask! Now go discover the adventures that are there for the asking and while you are at it, have a great adventure of your own!