“Recently, I was sitting in a restaurant in Kansas City. A man about two tables away kept looking at me. I didn’t recognize him. A few minutes into our meal he stood up and walked over to my table, looked down at me, pointed his finger in my face and said, ‘You’re Captain Plumb.’ I looked up and I said, ‘Yes sir, I’m Captain Plumb.’
He said, ‘You flew jet fighters in Vietnam. You were on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down. You parachuted into enemy hands and spent six years as a prisoner of war.’
I said, ‘How in the world did you know all that?’
He replied, ‘Because, I packed your parachute.’” (Excerpt from “I’m No Hero” by Charles Plumb)
Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. He had flown 75 successful combat missions, till one day his plane was shot down and he had to eject, parachuting directly into enemy hands. He spent the next six years of his life as a prisoner of war.
Captain Plumb said he couldn’t sleep that night after that encounter in the restaurant. He stayed awake and spent many hours just thinking of that unknown sailor who had worked in the bowels of the ship, folding and packing parachutes, literally holding in his hands the fate of someone he didn’t even know. “I wondered how many times I had passed him on board ship and never even said hi or good morning or how are you or anything.”
Today Mr. Plumb is a motivational speaker, and he tells his audiences that it is because of the selfless dedication of that unknown sailor that, “I can be here with you today.” And he asks his audience this question. “Who is packing your parachute?”
We live in an interesting time in human history. There are currently more than 7.4 billion people living on this planet. Interestingly, it took from the start of human history till 1804 for our global population to reach 1 billion people. It only took another 123 years for that number to double, reaching 2 billion in 1927. And thanks to all the marvels of our modern civilization, the population of our planet has been growing steadily ever since.
Experts estimate that, in all of human history, nearly 108 billion people have lived on this earth. So we can confidently say that 7% of all people who have ever been born on this earth are alive and living on this planet today.
We owe our very existence to the simple fact that we are privileged to be living during this time of human history. Have you ever stopped to wonder, or to think about all the countless people on whom your very life depends? There are many nameless and faceless individuals who are, either directly or indirectly, responsible for your very existence.
Take a look at your own family tree, for example. You will find that there are many branches on that tree. But on that tree you will also find some very important branches that contain the names of specific individuals who had to survive in order for the miracle that is you to even exist today.
Consider all the necessities of life that we all tend to take for granted. For example, who made the clothes that we are wearing, or who produced the food that we eat, or who built the roof over our heads? Of all those many individuals that we share this planet with, how many, either knowingly or unknowingly, contribute to our well being and comfort?
On the other hand, how many others are there who don’t have all the necessities of life and how many of those have we helped?
We take for granted the many blessings that permit the modern day lifestyle that so many of us enjoy, blessings that literally help insure our continued comfort and survival. Communication, transportation, media, entertainment, industrial productivity, knowledge and education and the modern day health industry are all examples of blessings that are unique to our time in human history.
The Oxford Dictionary defines the word gratitude as, “The quality of being thankful; the readiness to show appreciation for and to return kindness.”
We need to develop a spirit of gratitude for the many blessings that we take for granted. And we need to develop a spirit of appreciation and kindness in assisting the multitudes who may not be as fortunate as we are.
In our daily lives, we become so engrossed in the many challenges that life offers us that we frequently miss or overlook that which is truly important. We often fall short in the common courtesies of life; failing to even say a simple hello or please or thank you or how can I help you?
In the Gospel of Luke (17:11-19), Jesus cleansed ten lepers and only one returned to give thanks to God. And Jesus responded to him by saying, “Stand up and go; your faith has saved you.” If we take that passage personally, we come to realize that not only is our spirit of gratitude and kindness an expression of common courtesies, that attitude is also vitally important and necessary for our salvation.