Sunday, March 20, 2011


I was going through some old boxes this week in the basement that I hadn't looked at for some time.  They contained old sports clippings, memorabilia, CD's, birthday cards from yesteryear and some letters that I filed under "from friends and loved ones".

Boy if that doesn't take a person back in time.  If anything, you come away appreciating that you've impacted people in your life and they in return have done the same for you.  It was a small rendition for me, like, "It's A Wonderful Life".  Through it all, there was one card in particular that I found most compelling.

The note and letter inside was  from Rick Nielsen, President of Blueprint for Life, Inc.  We had met several weeks before and Rick was following up from that connection.  These words jumped off the card...God is fair; He will not forget the work you did and the love you showed for Him by helping His people".  A smidgen convicting, I might say.  The letter was was titled, "Who Packs Your Parachute"?

"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 six years in a Communist Vietnam prison.  He survived the ordeal and now lectures on the lessons he learned from that experience.   

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting in a restaurant, a man about two tables away kept looking at him.  Plumb didn't recognize him.   A few minutes into the meal the man stood up and walked over to table, looked down at him, pointed his finger in his face and said, "You're Captain Plumb."

He looked up and said, "Yes sir, I'm Captain Plumb."

The man 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."

Plumb said, "How in the world did you know all that?"

The man replied, "Because, I packed your parachute."

Plumb was speechless.  He staggered to his feet and held out a very grateful hand of thanks. The man came up with just the proper words.  He grabbed Plumb's hand, he pumped his arm and said, "I guess it worked."

"Yes sir, indeed it did",  Plumb said, "and I must tell you I've said a lot of prayers of thanks for your nimble fingers, but I never thought I'd have the opportunity to express my gratitude in person."

The man said, "Were all the panels there?"

"Well sir, I must shoot straight with you," Plumb replied, "of the eighteen panels that were supposed to be in that parachute, I had fifteen good ones. Three were torn, but it wasn't your fault, it was mine. I jumped out of that jet fighter at a high rate of speed, close to the ground. That's what tore the panels in the chute. It wasn't the way you packed it."

"Let me ask you a question," Plumb said, "do you keep track of all the parachutes you pack?"

"No" the man responded, "it's enough gratification for me just to know that I've served."

A Parachute Packed Properly...

Now, in the lectures Plumb gives, he 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 of those supports before reaching safety.

So the philosophical question here is this: How's your parachute packing coming along?  Who looks to you for strength in times of need?  And perhaps, more importantly, who are the special people in your life who provide you the encouragement you need when the chips are down? Perhaps it's time right now to give those people a call and thank them for packing your chute.

I must say, the note and letter from Rick was a great find.   But you know what?  I haven't laid eyes on Rick Nielsen since that one time meeting some 13 years ago.  In truth, he was packing my parachute that day.  Now, my mission is to find him.  A thank you is in order.




  1. Ahhh....It's a small world. Hope you can locate him. Great story!

    So that's the box you found the Christmas card!

  2. Many boxes my dear. Found pictures I forgot I even had....yours being one of them!!

  3. Did you ever find Rick? FYI - his web site is

  4. I did and thanks for the info.