Charles Plumb, a U.S. Naval Academy graduate, was a 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 a communist Vietnamese prison. 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 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 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 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. Plumb 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.
– Author Unknown –
I read an article in a magazine some time ago regarding a retired schoolteacher who was in her eighties. She related how overjoyed she was to receive a letter from one of her former students thanking her for the role she played in his life. She responded immediately with this response: “I can’t tell you how much your letter meant to me. You will be interested to know that I taught school for 50 years, and yours is the first note of appreciation I have ever received. It filled my heart with much joy.” 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 do something nice for no reason.
While writing this my thoughts went something like this. When was the last time you thanked and praised God for your life? For another day He has given you, for your eyes to see with, for your ears to hear with, for legs to take you where you want to go, for your hands to allow you to do things like tie a shoe lace. My beloved, if you haven’t you should, because there are literally thousands upon thousands of people who cannot see because they are blind, can’t hear because they are deaf, can’t walk because they have no legs and can’t do things because they have no hands.
Just as we delight in hearing someone say thank you as the school teacher stated, so does God who takes delight in hearing His children say, “Thank you Lord.” He inspired the psalmist to write, “It is good to give thanks to the Lord” (Psalm 91:1). How fitting it is, therefore, that we express our gratitude to God, not only for the good things He gives to us, but also the trials that cause us to recognize our spiritual needs and the sorrows He brings into our lives that encourages us to hunger after His righteousness. As you go through this week, this month, this year, please recognize people who packs your parachute.
We don’t need more to be thankful for; we just need to be more thankful in our expression.