my father and i attended a financial seminar last week and the guest speaker opened with a question and story that i would like to share with you too. i hope you’ll take time to reflect and to pass on what you’ve germinated.

have you heard of charles plumb? he’s mostly known for his motivational speeches; but before he was a speaker, he was a  US naval jet fighter pilot in vietnam. he flew 74 successful air missions but his plane was destroyed by a surface-to-air missile on his 75th. he parachuted out of his jet (so close to the ground that he tore 3 panels of his parachute)  and landed in enemy territory where he was tortured and imprisoned in a little 8 x 8 room cell by vietnam communists for 2,103 days.

i bet you weren’t expecting a history lesson from me today — but the story continues.

several years later, mr. plumb was eating lunch with his wife when a man walked up to him at his table. the man exclaimed, “you’re captain plumb.”

“yes sir, i am captain plumb.”

then the man continued with specific details about mr. plumb’s naval life: “you flew fighter jets in vietnam. you were on the aircraft carrier kitty hawk. you were shot down. you were a prisoner of war for 6 years.”

now as most of us would probably do if faced with a stranger who knew this much about our lives, mr. plumb guardedly asked him, “how do you know all this?”

and the stranger replied:

“because, i packed your parachute.
… guess it worked.”

mr. plumb shook the sailor’s hand and thanked him. later, he tossed and turned in bed all night, bothered by how little thought he ever gave to the sailor working well-below sea-level on an airship carrier, carefully weaving and folding piles of silk into a parachute — just in case any pilot’s life would ever depend on his labors.

so, who packs your parachute?

it’s not a matter of IF something is going to happen in life: something IS going to happen to each and every one of us that will stop time, forces choices, and irreparably change us. when this happens, who will be there?

who packs your emotional parachute?

your spiritual parachute?

i urge you to reflect on the people and experiences and objects in your life that allow you to function day-to-day. maybe it’s your family who hugs you goodnight. or the barista who prepares your morning espresso. or your salary that pays for your home. or your neighbor who prays for your well-being. or government loans for your education. or your financial advisor who guards your retirement. or the surgeon who repaired a broken jaw.

back to the story of mr. plumb: he was haunted by his attitude while aboard the kitty hawk carrier. he was a naval pilot who wouldn’t have wanted to speak to a lowly sailor wearing a dixie cup hat and bell bottom trousers. so he wondered how many times did he walk right past him, without a thought of “good morning”?

how often do you thank the person who packs your parachute?

often, i hear people say that they hope to look back fondly on life when they are 80 years old. if you catch yourself saying those words, consider these two things: 1) we’ve been told that only a small part of our happiness depends on external environment, meaning the other roughly 90% is determined internally (genetics and intentional activities); and 2) you do not have to wait until you are old to evaluate your successes and be proud of your life experiences. so starting today, let’s create and expand our own happiness by purposefully expressing our gratitude to those who pack our parachutes with full, thankful hearts. send a text message. write a letter. wish out loud on a dandelion. drive 20 minutes and give your mom some flowers.

thank you, dear reader, for packing my parachute of purpose. i refuse to believe that i have been given these thoughts and these words and these talents to remain an island; your finding me was not an accident, and i appreciate you for reading my blog.

-a.