Gratitude is the avgas that fuels Mission Operations at Angel Flight West. We are the fortunate few who spend a significant portion of our workday receiving gratitude from the people we most frequently connect with—medical professionals, passengers, and our beloved volunteers. In turn, we harness this positive energy and spread it among ourselves, creating a culture of value and appreciation. And just as we receive gratitude, we look to give it away, holding a mirror up to the extraordinary people we interact with and closing the gap on this virtuous cycle. As it turns out, gratitude breeds more gratitude.
A free exchange of appreciation is a top-shelf salve for suffering.
As I write this, I paused to pick up two phone calls. The first came from a grandmother and legal guardian of an eight-month-old with a traumatic brain injury, and the second from the friend of a woman with Stage 4 cancer who is looking to spend what’s left of her days closer to home after she has exhausted treatment options.
These timely examples illustrate the weight of some of our daily interactions, but the culture of gratitude always helps lighten the load.
We often hear from those mired down by the bureaucratic chaos of the medical care system and who are standing face-to-face with some of life’s harshest realities and paralyzing existential questions, yet, we are granted the privilege to listen. And we are gifted the even greater privilege of presenting a solution for a difficult and, sometimes, impossible logistical problem.
Our daily stories, while they may be heavy, are full of heroes. We are moved by medical professionals who have made it their life’s purpose to heal and to serve the vulnerable. We are thankful for families and friends who will move mountains for their loved ones. We are inspired by patients who have been wrestling with every imaginable human struggle, but still find a way to crack a joke or express appreciation. And of course, we are profoundly grateful for the true heroes of our organization: our volunteers. As the driving force for charitable action, our volunteers make our mission possible. Above their substantial financial commitment, they also invest their one non-renewable resource: time. The magnitude and scale of this investment in service of good is not lost on us; therefore, we thank the heroes who dole out a daily dose of inspiration. Living in a world overrun with problems, we are surrounded by a community who is invested in making it better.
To me, no one exemplified the power and pull of gratitude more than Maureen J., who began flying with us in September 2019. I vividly remember first describing our service to her and smiling at the bubbling excitement on the other end of the line. She flew weekly from Bellingham to Seattle for specialized cancer care, and from the get-go, she made gratitude the central theme of her journey. She refused to show up to airports empty-handed, making sure she had baked goods and a beaming smile at the ready for her pilots. The personality that she structured around giving and gratitude was undeniably infectious and made pilots jump at the opportunity to fly her. Around Christmas time, the AFW office received a hefty box of holiday treats and the latest issue of a photography magazine that Maureen and her husband published. As a token of her appreciation for AFW, Maureen hardly went out without her AFW cap and spent time in her clinic spreading the word so more could be helped. When she passed in September of 2020, the light of her giving spirit continues to live on as bright as ever in those who knew her.
It is always said that one of the key factors influencing job satisfaction is feeling valued and appreciated. In Mission Operations, we receive that gift daily, and for that, I am grateful.