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Expert Feature: Experience The True Power of Thankfulness By Transforming It From A Feeling To An Action

Being thankful can really have a big impact on your life.

But what if the way we normally think of thankfulness is not its most powerful form?


During one of Paul Harvey’s The Rest of the Story radio programs in 1977, he told a powerful story he called “The Old Man and the Gulls“.

It’s a story that will give you a new perspective on thankfulness – one that reveals it as an action, not just a feeling.

Listen as Paul Harvey tells this incredible story…

thankfulness, gratefulness, how to be more thankful, article on thankfulness

The Old Man and the Gulls

“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 Captian 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.”



This is a time of the year where we talk a lot about “giving thanks.”

Most of us think that “giving thanks” means two things:

1. Making a list of the things we’re thankful for.

2. Or telling others what we’re thankful for.

Those are great things to do, but what if it’s more than that?

I believe that “giving thanks” in its most powerful form is an action.

It involves you actually giving something (your time, your effort, or maybe even your money) to show your gratitude..

That’s what Captain Eddie did.

He didn’t write down on a list about how thankful he was for that gull.

He SHOWED his thankfulness by going every Friday to that old broken pier to feed the sea gulls.


Who Do You Need to Show Your Gratitude To?

You might not have gone through as dramatic of an experience as Captain Eddie, but I can guarantee that you’ve had many people who have sacrificed so that you could experience the life you live now.

People like:


  • Parents
  • Siblings
  • Teachers
  • Spouses
  • Friends
  • Veterans
  • And many more

How to Make Your “Thankfulness List” More Powerful

Instead of just writing a list of things you’re thankful for, why not add to that list those who sacrificed so you could have those things?

What can you DO to show your gratitude to them or people like them (if you can’t thank them directly)?

When you take action and show your gratitude for these things, then your thankfulness will not only impact you in a more powerful way.

It will impact others too – those who experience your acts of gratitude and those who witness them.

Leave a Comment

I’d love to hear what you’ve done and experienced by applying this concept in your life.

Leave a comment below and let us know what you did and how it impacted your or others.


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About Scott Aughtmon (1864 Articles)
I’m author of the book 51 Content Marketing Hacks. I am also a regular contributor to and I am the person behind the popular infographic 21 Types of Content We Crave. I’m a business strategist, consultant, content creation specialist, and speaker. I’ve been studying effective marketing and business methods (both online and offline) since 1999. ===> If you would like to see ways that we could work together, then please click here to learn more.