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Read the thoughts and impressions on a variety of topics written by Christopher F. Kerrigan, President and CEO of the Community Foundation as well as occasional guest bloggers.

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Everyday Matters: Every Day Matters

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Who Packed Your Parachute? Whose Are You Packing?
By Denise K. Spencer / May 1, 2016
In the book, Insights Into Excellence, Captain Charlie Plumb tells the story of a stranger who approached him as he was having dinner in a restaurant. The man recognized him as Captain Plumb and knew he was a jet fighter pilot who served on the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk. The stranger also knew that he had been shot down and had parachuted behind enemy lines and was a Vietnamese prisoner of war for six long years. Captain Plumb did not know this gentleman at all, and asked how he could possibly know all of that. “Because, I packed your parachute,” was the reply.

Captain Plumb was grateful to meet and shake the hand of a man who had saved his life. Then the Captain asked an important additional question, “Do you keep track of all the parachutes you pack?”

“No,” the stranger responded, “it’s enough gratification for me just to know that I’ve served.”

None of us have arrived where we are without the help of others. No matter how successful we are, we cannot take full and total credit for getting there. While in some cases we know the names of those who helped us along the way, in other cases, there are countless nameless folks who own a piece of our success. I know well the many ways in which my parents, grandparents, teachers, church leaders and employers played a role in moving my life ahead. I’m certain that the inventor of penicillin saved my life, as did the various doctors who helped me through childbirth and cancer surgery. But the anonymous engineers who built safety features into my automobile, subsequently totaled by a reckless driver, also saved my life. The clerks who processed my college application, the hospital auxiliary ladies who had bake sales to raise my scholarship dollars, and even the taxpayers whose hard-earned money made my state university’s tuition within reach are among my personal parachute packers. Much of my knowledge comes from a lifetime of voracious reading; authors, librarians, publishing houses, editors, typesetters, and booksellers have all had a role in my life, and yet most of them are unknown to me. My colleagues here at the Community Foundation are critical to the success of our work; it takes all of us to make this a worthy endeavor; none of us can do it by ourselves. If you were to consider your life, and all of the parachute packers therein, who would they be? Both the known and the unknown? Is your gratitude growing with your list?

And perhaps more importantly, whose parachutes are you packing? You have saved and/or significantly impacted the lives of many, both known and unknown. The value of your careful skill with the silks is equally important whether you are known or unknown to those relying on you. Your charitable work, both volunteer and financial, is life-giving, life-saving and life-affirming in ways you may never fully understand. What individuals and organizations are looking to you for support that could make all the difference? Your kind words, your mentoring, your canned goods, your unused coats, your checks or planned gifts are the stuff of which life is extended or improved for many.

In honor of the many who have packed your parachutes with great care throughout your life, please do the same for your friends and neighbors with whom you share this community, region, country, and planet. And if you require information about where the needs are significant, call Community Foundation of the Lowcountry. Our knowledgeable staff can share with you resources, as well as expertise, which can assist you in your quest to LIVE GENEROUSLY. Both “The Giving Marketplace” and “Lowcountry Volunteer Connections” through our website are tools which provide significant information about local nonprofits and their needs. Likewise, through the establishment of new funds or the support of existing funds at the Community Foundation, your generosity can take flight in exciting ways. And while you’re at it, call those invaluable people who you know have given you respite in the storms of your life, and thank them. It might be just the lift they need.

Denise K. Spencer
President and CEO
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Community Foundation of the Lowcountry

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Hilton Head Island,
South Carolina 29925

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