WHO IS PACKING YOUR PARACHUTE?
Charlie Plumb is a public speaker and retired naval officer.
After Plumb graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, he flew jets in
Vietnam. He was shot down by a surface-to-air missile after 75
combat missions. He ejected and parachuted into the jungle. The
Vietcong captured him and held him prisoner for six years in North
Vietnam. Today, Plumb lectures on lessons learned from that
He likes to tell the story of a day when he and his wife were
sitting in a restaurant and a man at another table approached them.
“You’re Plumb!” the man said. “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 the former pilot.
“I packed your parachute!” he said. Plumb gasped in surprise. The
man pumped his hand and continued, “I guess it worked!”
Plumb assured him it did. “If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t
be here today.”
The pilot couldn’t sleep that night, thinking about the stranger. He
wondered how many times he might have seen him on the ship and not
spoken because he was a fighter pilot and the man who packed his
chute was “just a sailor.” He thought of the many hours the sailor
had spent on a long wooden table in the bowels of the carrier,
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.
When Plumb lectures, he often asks his audience, “Who’s packing your
parachute?” He is asking: who is watching out for you? Can you
identify the people who have packed your parachute over the years
and those who are packing it today?
I think of a music teacher who taught me that it was not enough for
me to learn the instrument. I must also have fun with it. Ever
since, music has been a source of supreme joy for me.
I think of a school teacher who, after listening to a reading of a
short story I performed before the class, described the impact of
that story on him. That day I fell in love with story-telling and
understood the important role stories can play in a person’s life.
I think of a young woman who believed in me and instilled within me
a life-long belief in myself.
I can think of many people who have packed my parachute. In their
own way, each helped me land a little more safely. Some have been
true teachers for me, some have been compassionate healers, and some
have put me in touch with deep, spiritual values. They influenced me
more than they ever knew.
Who is packing your parachute? And just as important, whose
parachutes are you packing? Who looks up to you? Who may depend on
you for courage or encouragement? For understanding or guidance?
To those who have packed my parachute over the years, I am indebted.
For those who are packing it yet today, I give thanks.
And to those whose parachutes I am packing, I promise to do my best.
— Steve Goodier
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