Charles "Chuck" Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam.After 75 combat missions, his plane was destroyed by asurface-to-air missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemyhands. He was captured and spent six years in a communistVietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures onthe lessons he learned from that experience.
One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man at anothertable came up and said, "You"re Plumb! You flew jet fighters inVietnam from the Aircraft Carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shotdown!"
"How in the world did you know that?" asked Plumb. "Ipacked your parachute," the man replied. Plumb gasped insurprise and gratitude. The man pumped his hand and said, "Iguess it worked!" Plumb assured him, "It sure did. If your chutehadn"t worked, I wouldn"t be here today."
Plumb couldn"t sleepthat night, thinking about that man. Plumb says, "I keptwondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform: awhite hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wonderhow many times I might have seen him and not even said, "Goodmorning, how are you?" or anything because, you see, I was afighter pilot and he was "just" a sailor." Plumb thought of themany hours the sailor had spent on a long wooden table in thebowels of the ship, carefully weaving the shrouds and foldingthe silks of each chute, holding in his hands each time the fateof someone he didn"t know.
Now, Plumb asks his audience, "Who"spacking your parachute?" Everyone has someone who provides whatthey need to make it through the day. Plumb also points out thathe needed many kinds of parachutes when his plane was shot downover enemy territory -- he needed his physical parachute, hismental parachute, his emotional parachute, and his spiritualparachute. He called on all these supports before reachingsafety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, wemiss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please,or thank you, to congratulate people on something wonderful thathas happened to them, to give a compliment, or just to dosomething nice for no reason. As you go through this week, thismonth, and this year, recognize people who pack your parachutesand send them your gratitude.