Monday, December 26, 2011

Do you know who packs your parachute?

I was channel surfing recently and caught one of Joel Osteen's sermons (my girlfriend, Tanya, is a fan).  I'm not religious, unless you consider Ignosticism a religion, but his message in this one sermon was one that people of any faith, or no faith, can and should use in their lives everyday.

Fighter pilot.  He gets shot down in Vietnam.  His plane is half blown apart but somehow he ejects, deploys his parachute, and floats down into the jungle, where he is quickly captured.  Becomes a POW for 5 years or so.  Comes home.  Many years pass by.  He's at a diner with his wife.  A man walks up to him.  He calls the pilot out by name.  The pilot does not recognize him.  The man says his name and says, "I'm the seaman that packed your parachute on the carrier." 

They chat for a while, pilot goes home.  He's bothered by this.  How could he not recognize this guy?  Or remember his name?  He'd walked past him 100 times or more, and never even bothered to commit the boy's name into his memory? 

From there, Joel took it to the next level.

You don't always see them.  You don't always know they're there, or even what they are doing, but there are people doing things, often behind the scenes, that are making your life better.  They are doing things to help you, to promote you to some higher place.  Do you know who's packing your parachute?  Do you have any idea?  How meticulous did each fold and twist have to be on the pilot's parachute in order for it to deploy properly?  (I've jumped twice and on the first one, I got to see some guys in a hangar packing parachutes and it's like a surgery).  How did that one man's actions for another that he didn't know allow for the pilot to make it home?  For the pilot to live many happy years, right up to that moment in the diner with his beloved wife? 

When I started thinking about, my head just about imploded.  Until then, I didn't realize how many people had helped me.  How many people whose name tags I hadn't bothered to commit to memory.  Not the obvious ones, like my girlfriend, who has supported my every decision and need.  Or my sister Kelley, who has stood behind me when others would not, because she knows that I have a good heart and I want the best for people and because we have a relationship that cannot be broken by anything or anyone (feel free to try; oh, Kev has THAT kind of confidence it it?  Indeedy).  Not people like Joann, who not only lit a fire under my butt to make me finish my first three novels but who has shown up time and time again when I was at my lowest and weakest to help the pain go away.  Not people like my friends Shane, Jan, Jennifer, Claudia, or so many others who have reached out a hand and said to me, "Kevin, I will help you.  I will help you."  Those are the obvious ones.  Those are the ones I give thanks for every single day.  Those are the ones I OWE, no matter who among them might say that I owe them nothing.

But do you know everybody who's packing your parachute?

How about the check-out lady at the grocery store who notices that a package has been opened and asks if you'd like to go get another.  How do you know she didn't just save your life?  How about the guy that noticed that you left your car door open with it stock-full of gifts you just bought for your family and kindly shuts it to lower the chances of theft.  You never knew about him.  You can't thank him. 

Do you know who's packing your parachute?

The police arrest a known murderer who's walking past your house, looking for some house to break into to get some food and maybe some money to continue on his spree.  The mechanic that fixed your car went ahead and put in new spark plugs without charging you and didn't mention it, because he knew you were hurting for money and he couldn't fathom the thought of you stuck somewhere on some lonely night.  The janitors that clean your office at night and sprinkle some baking soda into the bottom of the can because you once requested it and they never forgot.  The stranger that gets out of his car on a dangerous curve in the road to remove the fallen tree that probably would have killed somebody.  The nurse that noticed you were about to be given a toxic combination of medication and stopped it at the very last moment.

Do you have any idea at all who's packing your parachute?  My hope, as was Joel's and the pilot's, is that you figure out who they are.  All of them.  And go out of your way to recognize them.

I know some of them, but not all.  This blog would have to go ultra-viral for me to possibly even be able to thank a majority of them, but for what it's worth, for all who have helped to pack anybody's parachute without needing recognition, I see you now.  I see you in my heart, and you will be in my heart from now until I die.

Thank you.

Kevin A. Kierstead
Skydive survivor

Thursday, December 22, 2011

The bleeding heart is the only heart I wish to save

Trust me 100%, please, in that I do not want this article to get political.

The problem is that over the past 30 years or so, we have so intricately intertwined politics with personality that it's nearly impossible not to.

It's time for me to post my beliefs, and why I have them (if I know; some of them are just "there.")  I hope I don't lose any friends over this; I do care about you all and please remember, these are only differences in opinion.  I'm still going to feed you if you show up at my house hungry.  I'm still going to pick you up out of the ditch if you wrecked your car on some back country road.  My hope is that we can share some values.

1.  The bleeding heart.  You often hear the term; bleeding-heart liberal.  Do you know what that is?  It's a varying definition, but the average definition is that it's somebody leaning to the "left" who believes that something should be "taken" from other Americans and given to less fortunate Americans.

Tax systems have been around from about 500 BC on (that we know of).  That's taking money from everybody, for an elected few to decide what to do with it.  Depending on the leadership and, especially, the purity of heart and true love of a nation, those few would make good decisions.  Those decisions would include investing in a growing economy, bolstering defense, repairing infrastructure, investing in science and associated research, and, finally, turning toward our sick and hurting and saying, "There is something we are going to do for you, because there is something we CAN do for you.  You are one of us.  Maybe you don't have a job and you should have one.  Maybe you are a hero of one of our recent battles and you can't shake the vision of your brother's head being removed by a 42-inch broad sword.  You're obviously not living the dream.  We're going to do something for you, and we're going to try to inspire you to try to do something for yourselves if you are able."

Do I have a bleeding heart?  Yes.  I care about people I've never met.  You see a bum laying in front of a liquor store.  You don't know if he was in a car accident a year before, killing his entire family as well as another family, all because he was trying to swerve to save the life of a dog.  You see somebody begging for change.  You don't know if he's very close to dying from cancer and, in fact, has to get people to take his money donations for him to go buy him food and drink because he cannot walk, and it is often stolen, and he can't go to a doctor because he has no money or insurance.

There's a bit of a caveat I have to this feeling of caring for others.  As a good friend, Jo, got me thinking about in an excellent book called, "Ishmael," there are always going to be about 5 or 10% of the world's population starving.  That's what brings it back down; that's what keeps it under control.  If we feed the world's hungry, guess what?  They breed.  And those babies need food.  The more you feed, the more they breed.  Do you realize that some believe that this great planet of ours can support no more than about 12 billion people and that we'll run into water availability problems long before that?

So what's the answer?  I don't know.  Require a two kid limit, worldwide.  Require an injected birth control for those that are starving.  We gotta do something.  We gotta do it now.  Not in 2018.  NOW.

2.  Guess what else my heart bleeds for?  It's my fellow American.  I'm going to keep this short.  We are quickly (rapidly, seriously) losing our superpower status, and China is in a boom that you can't quantify.  With booms come money, and with money comes defense, and with defense comes the desire to expand your horizons, as well as the desire to be the sole superpower (just ask Niccolo Machiavelli because the idea is to TAKE OUT ALL THREATS; consequently, his masterpiece, "The Prince," happened to be Bill Clinton's favorite book).

That means we need to do some things.  Don't cut defense; not now.  Get to work HARD on robots, drones, and lasers, because I goddam guarantee that the Chinese are (and don't forget that some or many may ally with them to take down a superpower; it's an exciting prospect).  Again, we can't start on this in 2015 or 2020.  It has to be NOW.  NOW.  NOW.  Spread this message to all you know if you want this country to last another 100 years.  For us to win this, I promise you my soul, we need to get started early on leading the world again in science and defense.  Just trust me!

Thank you for reading!