Who Packs Your Parachute?

Charles Plum, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a jet fighter 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 six years in a Communist prison. He survived that ordeal and now lectures about 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!” 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. Plumb says, “I kept wondering what he might have looked like in a Navy uniform – a Dixie cup hat, a bib in the back, and bell-bottom trousers. I wondered how often I might have passed him on the Kitty Hawk. I wondered 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 on 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.”

The story is a powerful reminder of how important it is to show gratitude and serve others selflessly. It reminds me of a scripture in Ephesians 4:16 (NIV), which states, “From him, the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” This verse speaks to the interconnectedness of believers within the body of Christ and emphasizes that every individual has a unique role in supporting and building up the community of faith.

In our personal lives, we often encounter individuals who quietly and faithfully provide the support and encouragement we need to navigate life’s challenges. Just like the sailor who packed Charles Plum’s parachute, there are many unsung heroes who play an important role in our lives. These people are like vessels of God’s love and support, and they help us on our journey.

As Christians, we are called to be parachute packers and vessels of God’s love and support to others. Our duty is to serve others without expecting anything in return and to be a blessing to those around us. We must recognize the people who play an important role in our lives and support us in our journey. In the midst of our busy lives, it’s easy to overlook the importance of expressing gratitude towards these people. We might forget to say simple things like hello, please, or thank you, or offer heartfelt compliments to those who deserve it.

Therefore, it’s important to reflect on our own lives and identify the parachute packers who have packed our parachutes in various ways, providing the support and encouragement needed to face life’s challenges. Call them and say thank you. By fostering a spirit of gratitude and service, we can strengthen our communities and help fulfill God’s divine plan. Every person we encounter has a crucial role to play in this plan, and by recognizing and expressing gratitude to others, we can build stronger, more supportive communities.

Pray with me: Dear God, may we learn to appreciate the quiet servants and supporters in our lives. Help us to be vessels of love and support for others, just as Christ was for us, and follow in his footsteps and show kindness to all around us. Amen.