Abraham’s Parachute – A Spiritual Reflection
In the first reading of the Second Sunday of Lent we read that Abraham was to be a blessing not only to his own people but to literally millions of people through the ages. What is the significance of that to people today?
For those of you who can’t remember the Vietnam War there was gentleman by the name of Charles Plumb. Captain Plumb was a jet fighter pilot during the war. After close to 70 missions, he was shot down by a surface-to-air missile. He was able to eject from his jet and parachuted down into enemy territory. He was captured and sent to a Vietnamese prisoner-of-war camp where he spent the next six years. While a POW, Charles Plumb began to develop a set of skills that would enable him to survive his ordeal as a POW. Eventually released, he returned to the United States and began to travel around the country giving motivational talks about the lessons that he learned while he was a prisoner-of-war.
One day, after one of his talks Captain Plumb was having dinner with his wife and was approached by a man who said, “You’re Charles Plumb, aren’t you? I know you! You were a fighter pilot in Vietnam. You flew from the Kitty Hawk and were shot down and were a prisoner of war for a number of years.” Needless to say, Charles Plumb was somewhat taken aback that in an anonymous restaurant, someone would be able to pick him out of a crowd. Plumb inquired of the man how possibly could know him. The man said, “I was a sailor stationed on the Kitty Hawk with you and the day you were shut down, I packed your parachute.” Startled, Charles Plumb was speechless for a moment until the man said, “I guess it worked.” Charles Plumb could only reply, “It sure did!”
Later Charles Plumb recounted that day those many years ago. He was humbled by the fact that while he was on the Kitty Hawk, how many times might he have walked past this sailor in his bellbottom pants and navy issue shirt? More than likely, he probably would have walked past and never given him any consideration. After all he was a “fighter pilot.” Fighter pilots were the elite and this guy was “just another sailor.”
Yet down in the bowels of the Kitty Hawk, every single day this simple sailor literally held the lives of fighter pilots in his hands. On a wooden table, every day, he would carefully fold the parachute silk and meticulously arrange parachute shrouds hoping that the pilot would never have to use them but knowing that, if he did, this particular sailor had to make sure that every time the parachute was folded perfectly. There was no room for even the smallest error.
Charles Plumb realized many years later what a blessing that unnamed unknown sailor was to his life. The interaction with that unknown sailor changed his own life’s perspective on who he was and how others – unknown, faraway, years later – could bestow the “Abrahamic Blessing” on another or many others, without them even knowing it.
So now, back to the story of Abraham. In our lives, we are bestowing blessing – or we are not. An IHM Sister I knew once said. “You’re either the answer of someone’s prayers, or the cause of them.” If we are going to bestow blessings on others, then we need to “start packing”.
Here are some questions upon which we can use during these days of Lent.
- Who are the people in our lives who have bestowed blessings upon us this week?
- Who are the people in our lives who have bestowed an Abrahamic Blessing upon us years later or from distances far away?
- On whom have we bestowed a blessing this week?
If it seems that our “blessing cup” is not running over upon others, maybe we need to “get packing”.