Charles Plumb was a U.S. 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 the communist Vietnamese prison but 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!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If that chute hadn’t opened, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb couldn’t sleep all night thinking about that man. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he 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’ve 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 even 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 the spiritual parachute. He called on all these supports before he finally reached safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life presents, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you … congratulate someone on something wonderful that this happened to them, give a compliment, or just do something nice for no particular reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes.

Sometimes, we wonder why friends keep forwarding jokes to us without writing a word. Maybe this could explain it: When you’re very busy, but still want to keep in touch, guess what you do … you forward jokes. And to let you know that you are still remembered, still important, still loved, that you are still cared for, guess what you get? A forwarded joke!

So the next time you get a joke, don’t think that you’ve been sent just another forwarded joke but delight in the fact that you’ve been thought of today and your friend at the other end of your computer wanted to send you a smile … just helping to pack your parachute!

— Author Unknown


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