Sometimes it is so difficult to say “thank you”

Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.

In God’s Little Acre, a compilation of inspirational stories, there is one narrative that caught my eye because it speaks to the problems we have communicating with each other, and in turn with God. It is especially difficult when we have to say, “I’m sorry,” but I believe just as embarrassing to say, “Thank you.” Perhaps it is because saying thank you indicates indebtedness and we are reluctant to be beholden to someone.

When darkness envelops us, we tend to concentrate on the loss and not remind ourselves of the goodness of life and the “Thank you” we owe God for sharing that life with us. It is so hard to say thank you when our pain seems to be too much to bear.

We should be thinking about this as we approach a time in our lives giving us the opportunity to step back and rejuvenate. Unfortunately, we tend to wait for a prescribed time to be grateful and, at the same time, be regretful.

Perhaps the following story, taken from God’s Little Acre, will expand on these thoughts:

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 Vietnamese prison. He survived the ordeal and now lectures on lessons learned from that experience.

One day, when Plumb and his wife were sitting 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 pumped 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.”

Now, Plumb asks his audience, “Who is packing your parachute?”

Everyone has someone who provides what is needed to make it through the day. Plumb also pointed 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 these supports before reaching safety.

Sometimes in the daily challenges that life gives us, we miss what is really important. We may fail to say hello, please or thank you, congratulate someone on something wonderful that has happened to them, give a compliment or just something nice for no reason. Maybe we even ignore people because they are different.

As the weeks and months progress, recognize people who pack your parachute. Most importantly, remember the One who packs all our parachutes both in times of sadness and in times of gladness.

Life is a blessing with all of its trials and tribulation and, yes, sometimes it is difficult to say thank you, but we need to try. I really believe we will all feel something different and wonderful.