Who Is Packing Your Parachute?

Rev. Suzanne Marlatt Stewart

As the story goes, Charles Plumb was a U.S. Navy jet pilot in Vietnam. After 75 combat missions, his plane was shot down by a missile. Plumb ejected and parachuted into enemy military. He was captured and spent six years in a Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day when Plumb and his wife were eating in a restaurant, a man at another table came up and said, “You’re Plumb! 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 Plumb.

“I packed your parachute,” the man replied. Plumb gasped in surprise and gratitude. The man grabbed his hand and said, “I guess it worked!” Plumb assured him, “It sure did. If your chute hadn’t worked, I wouldn’t be here today.”

Plumb stated, “We all need a physical parachute, a mental parachute, an emotional parachute, and a spiritual parachute. All these supports are important before reaching safety.”

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss opportunities. We may fail to say hello, please, or thank you, to congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, to give a compliment, or to just sometimes do something nice for no reason.

Another type of support is social support, which is often identified as a key component of solid relationships and strong psychological health, but what exactly does it mean? Essentially, social support involves having a network of family and friends that you can turn to in times of need.

Whether you are facing a personal crisis and need immediate assistance or you just want to spend time with people who care about you, these relationships play a critical role in how you function in your day-to-day life.

It is social support that builds people up during times of stress and often gives them the strength to carry on and even thrive.

Social integration is the actual participation in various social relationships, ranging from romantic partnerships to friendships. This involves emotions, intimacy, and a sense of belonging to different groups, including being part of a:

* Family

* Partnerships

* Religious community

* Social activities

I am part of a small group of women I call my “spiritual sisters.” We support each other, care for each other, and can share past life events in our lives without fear of judgment. Plus, we have fun activities and do creative projects. I am very grateful to have these women in my life.

Research has also demonstrated the link between social relationships and many different aspects of health and wellness. Poor social support has been linked to depression and loneliness and has been shown to alter brain function and increase the risk of the following:

* Alcohol use

* Cardiovascular disease

* Depression

* Suicide

As you go through this week, this month, this year, recognize people who pack your parachute—those people in your life you know you can count on. As the saying goes, “I’ve got your back.”

Have a great day.

Rev. Suzanne, a resident of SaddleBrooke, is an independent writer and speaker. She was ordained nondenominational, representing all faiths, and her focus is “inclusivity.” Email:[email protected]