There is an interesting true story about a U.S. Navy jet pilot who, after 75 combat missions, was shot down by a surface-to-air missile in Vietnam. The pilot ejected and parachuted into enemy hands where he was captured and spent six years in a Vietnamese prison. After the war, he and his wife were sitting in a restaurant when a man from another table came up and said, “You flew jet fighters in Vietnam from the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. You were shot down.” The pilot was surprised and asked, “How did you know that?” “I packed your parachute,” the man replied as he shook his hand. “I guess it worked.” “It sure did,” replied the pilot. “If it hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.” The pilot went home and couldn’t sleep that night thinking about the low-ranking sailor who had spent many long hours in the bowels of the ship carefully folding parachutes. Since the jet pilot was an officer, he had no dealings with the enlisted men working beneath him. Yet his success, his very life, depended on the quality of the work those men did.
We need to ask ourselves, “Who’s packing our parachute?” All of us have others on whom we depend every day. Some of these people we will never meet, but we eat the vegetables they grow; we drink the milk they process; we drive the car they helped build. Others we do meet, such as the mailman who brings us letters from our loved ones, perhaps the school crossing guard who helps our little ones across a busy street, and maybe the janitors who often clean while we sleep to make our workplace livable. We all rely on many parachutes, which means there are many people who help provide what we need to make it through the day. We ought to appreciate their efforts.
There are physical parachutes, mental parachutes, emotional parachutes and spiritual parachutes. None of us is an island, and we all receive help and support from others. Do we stop to thank those who help us? If we are a student, do we appreciate the hard work and preparation that our teachers do for us? At work, do we thank those support workers who faithfully prepare our paycheck, or those who may answer our phone or back us up from the warehouse? In the ecclesia, do we show appreciation to those faithful sisters who prepare the memorial table every Sunday? What if no bread or wine was there when the presiding brother lifted the cover? Think of the Sunday school teachers, those who prepare the food or snacks for the children, those who turn on the heat in the winter, shovel the snow off the steps and make sure the hall is ready for us when we arrive each Sunday. Think of our family members and all the jobs they do as part of their love and support. How much do we appreciate all the kind acts done for us every day by so many others, and how often do we express our thanks to those we can thank?
Paul says, “And be ye thankful,” and advises “giving thanks always for all things unto God and the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Every day we should be thankful to our Heavenly Father who, in the ultimate sense, is the provider of all of our parachutes. He cares for us “as an eagle stirreth up her nest, fluttereth over her young, spreadeth abroad her wings, taketh them, beareth them on her wings.” He is the giver of every good and perfect gift, and we should never take for granted His gifts to us. The gift of eternal life, the cost of Christ’s death on the cross, and the hope of the future kingdom age are all gifts we can scarcely fathom, provided because of the great love of our God for us. David tells us, “Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name.”
As we need to show our appreciation to those around us who fold our parachutes, we must remember that without their support, we would all surely crash. We should also be faithful when folding the parachutes for others. So often we are needed to provide necessary help for one another, and we must do whatever it is we do faithfully and well. Other people’s lives could be in our hands. Paul said, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord.”
In a sense, we all fold parachutes for others as they fold ours. We are thankful to our Heavenly Father who furnishes us with divinely-provided parachutes. Let us show our appreciation and thanks to those who fold our parachutes in this life and be diligent as we fold them for others, for the lives of all of us depend on the faithful service we give. Solomon tells us “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.”
Robert J. Lloyd