Charles Plumb was a US Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.
After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile.
Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy hands. He was captured and spent 6 years in a communist Vietnamese prison.
He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said:
“You’re Plumb! You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down!”
“How in the world did you know that?” asked Plumb.
“I packed your parachute,” the man replied.
Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude.
The man pumped his hand and said: “I guess it worked!”
“It sure did,” Plumb assured him.
“If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.” That night, Plumb couldn’t sleep, as he kept thinking about that man.
“I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. I wonder how many times I might have seen him and not even said ‘Good morning, how are you?’ or anything because, you see, I was a fighter pilot and he was just a sailor.”
Plumb thought of the many hours the sailor had spent at a long wooden table in the bowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute, each time holding the fate of someone he didn’t know in his hands.
Now, Plumb asks us: “Who’s packing your parachute?”
Everyone has someone who provides what they need to make it through the day.
He also points out that he needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot down over enemy territory – he needed his physical parachute, his mental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritual parachute.
He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Moral of the story: Sometimes, in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important.
We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no reason.
As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.
And most importantly, show them your appreciation, gratitude and give them some attention – share this message with them.
You may not even know these people yet, so allow your kindness to have no boundaries whatsoever.
You’ll never know who might be packing your parachute right now…