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 to the ground. He was soon captured by the Vietnamese and placed in a prison camp. After spending 6 years as a prisoner of war he was rescued and returned home.
Years later 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!" Plumb 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. "I kept wondering what he had looked like in a Navy uniform: a white hat; a bib in the back; and bell-bottom trousers. How many times had I 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. He would carefully weave the shrouds and folding the silks of each chute. Each time holding in his hands 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 needed many kinds of parachutes after his plane was shot down over enemy territory. He needed his physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual parachutes. He called on all these supports before reaching safety.
Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is important. We fail to say 'hello', 'please', 'thank you', congratulate someone on an accomplishment, give a compliment, or do something nice for no reason. As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachutes. Where would we be without them?