Imagine this. I’m suited up. I double-checked the parachute pack on my back and the goggles on my eyes. Confidently, I step to the open plane door and brace myself. Someone says, “Now.” I jump. Beneath me, the panoramic landscape spreads as far as I can see. It’s exhilarating. At just the right time, I pull the ripcord, the parachute deploys, and I land perfectly on the target.
That movie scene will never happen.
It’s the jumping out of the plane part that trips me up. There might have to be a push on the back. Some white knuckles. Some loud screaming.
So let me express my admiration for people who do jump out of airplanes, especially for the sake of other people. Some made huge sacrifices on a world stage like those currently serving and those veterans of wars past, for which we are hugely grateful.
June 9, 2019 was the 75th anniversary of D-Day, when Allied forces launched the largest invasion in history to take back France from the Nazi stranglehold and turn the war. Quite properly, there was elaborate celebration around the bravery of the events as well as honoring the loss of life. Many who were there and survived the war have since passed—it has been 75 years, after all—but some are still alive, and descendants of those who fought or who suffered under the Nazis still remember the enormity of that time. Families, politicians, historians, and others gathered in many places, especially France, to commemorate the day.
I was listening to various news reports of the ceremonies on the BBC and heard a story of two incredible men who were parachuting into France as part of the observance. Now in and of itself, that is quite a thing. But that’s not the whole story. For these two men, it was the second time they’d jumped into France.
The first was 75 years ago, when they were in their twenties and British parachutists jumped into occupied France to capture a bridge strategically important to getting the troops about to land on the Normandy beaches to where they needed to be.
Now these men were in their nineties. That’s right. Jumping out of planes in their nineties.
Tears came to my eyes. Lives well lived, indeed. Without their courage, things could have been different for the people of France, for Europe, for the world. They made history.
I was struck by how important courage is to our everyday experience. Clearly not everyone is going to jump into occupied territory, liberate a bridge, and help keep the world free (and then repeat the jumping part at age 95!). Some courageous acts are high profile, like parachutists, and their stories make the news reports.
And then there is everyday courage. Trauma survivors take brave steps to reclaim and rebuild their lives. People with behavioral health struggles come to us at Aspire Health Alliance and muster the courage to tell us their stories. Sometimes it takes years for people to be ready for that step, and when they are, we’re here.
And our staff jump into unknown territory, making sure to care for the people we meet with honor and respect. We may not be parachutists saving Europe, but what we do every day changes lives and helps people break free of destructive cycles. We walk with them across the safe bridge to the life they want to live—and deserve to have.
And that brings tears to my eyes. I don’t have to jump out of a plane to get all the thrill I need.
President and CEO
Aspire Health Alliance