I Packed your Parachute
Charlie Plumb graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy in 1964. He earned his Navy Wings of Gold in 1966 and went on to fly the F-4 Phantom jet with fighter squadron VF-114. He was assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Kitty Hawk and flew 74 successful combat missions over Vietnam. On his 75th mission, with five days before he was to return home, his plane was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. Plum ejected and parachuted down and into enemy hands, resulting in his capture and torture. He spent six years as a POW in North Vietnamese prison camps. 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 do 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!” Plum assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”
Plumb couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, “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, holding in his hands each time the fate of someone he didn’t know. Now, Plumb asks his audience, “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. 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 say something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute.
– Author Unknown