Tony sat down across from me in an empty Angel Flight West (AFW) cubicle, and we started chatting about the organization. Having countless missions under his belt from over five years of flying, he asked about the coordination team, listing everyone by name and inquiring about the new additions to the staff. His spontaneous drop-in was as welcome a surprise as ever, but especially so since the pandemic sent us all home for a couple years. When I first started at AFW, passenger and volunteer drop-ins were built into the regular flow of our workday, and these bright little moments were sincerely missed during the past two years.
Through our conversation, Tony and I meandered into a discussion about charity and giving, and he shared a thought that stuck with me: When he gives to charities, he expects that his contribution is being used wisely and effectively, but when he lends his talent, time, and resources to an angel flight mission, he sees firsthand the difference his gift makes. As an AFW volunteer, you see the direct impact of your donation every time a passenger steps into your cockpit or car. You hear their stories for yourself. You are a witness to the tension, fear, and desperation that accompanies devastating circumstances. But you are an equal witness, and moreover, a provider of relief, peace-of-mind, and joy.
The reason this conversation stuck with me is because it gets to the root of what I love about my job. The fruits of your passion, and ours, can be seen immediately and daily. Coordinators pick up the phone every day and hear how much this is helping, how treatment has never been so easy, how people who haven’t smiled in years broke their first grin in the skies, and how our volunteers have quite literally made the impossible possible. To put it mildly, that’s a unique daily work experience.
Of course, that doesn’t mean we don’t have our fair share of challenges, stressful moments, and grief; however, these difficulties are dwarfed by the ever-present potential to provide a solution.
Just today, I received two calls where situations that seemed impossible to deal with became possible over the span of about 20 minutes. The first came from a mother of three who was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer. She’s battled cancer for years and has seen every specialist in her area and beyond. With years of expensive medical care, two children in college, and a 13-year-old still at home, her family’s resources have been stretched to the limit. She explained that she had found a clinical trial across the country that was willing to vet her candidacy to be admitted. As she described her drive to pursue every possible recourse to keep going, she said, voice cracking, “I just want to be around for them.”
Another caller today was from an elderly gentleman whose wife had a heart attack a few days ago, and all their local hospitals in central Washington were at capacity. She had to be Medevacked to a facility in Idaho with no clear way for her to get home after surgery. Her husband believed the only option of getting her back was a 10+ hour bus ride after a cardiac procedure. As I explained our service, I began to hear the tension dissipate on the other end of the line. He said, “You know, this is the first time my wife and I have been apart in 25 years.”
These moments are just a glimpse into the daily stories of those who are served and saved.
With every mission accomplished, our volunteers are seeing the direct impact of their contribution. With each flight or drive completed, our volunteers are investing in well-being, in peace of mind, and in the future. Every trip opens a new set of opportunities and, in many cases, a chance for more time.