For 34 years, Earth Angel Dotian McReynolds was a harpist with the National Symphony in Washington, DC – and a traveling musician who played in nearly all of America’s 50 states. She was, by any professional measure, a master of her craft. She was also, by her own admission, addicted to direct engagement with her audiences.
“The division between the audience and the orchestra always bothered me,” Dotian said. “That’s a big gulf between you and the people. Music is communication, and it’s much nicer when you can be on the floor with [everybody].”
When Dotian eventually left her performance life and moved to California with her husband, Tom, she naturally sought new ways to recapture that special sense of interpersonal connection.
“Your audience was there, but then suddenly it’s gone,” she said. “I’m a worker. I can’t just sit around and do nothing. I knew I needed to do more. I needed to give back to people who had always helped me make a living doing what I had enjoyed.”
It just so happened that Tom was feeling a similar itch to make a difference in their California community. After Tom signed up as a volunteer pilot with Angel Flight West, Dotian lamented the fact that option wasn’t available to her, as she didn’t have a pilot’s license.
“Tom said to me, ‘Well, why don’t you drive?,’” Dotian said. “’They need people to drive passengers from the airport to facilities.’”
The suggestion quickly took hold. In her first week as an Angel Flight West “Earth Angel,” Dotian drove three passengers, put them at ease, and quickly recognized the value of her unique new role.
“Uber and taxi drivers don’t want to pick someone up for a five-minute drive,” Dotian said. “So I started doing more and more [Earth Angel] drives — and the people I met were incredible. If we can’t help each other in this life, then what are we doing here?”
Dotian’s effervescent personality and natural gift for connection soon had her passengers sharing their life stories, hopes, and fears, even as they faced cancer treatments and heart transplants. Dotian notes that, in some cases, her Earth Angel rides led to genuine friendships that extended beyond those volunteer trips.
“I now have a very dear friend who comes on Fridays for her treatments, and we go to lunch,” Dotian said. “I’ve been driving her for over a year now. She calls me and says, ‘I just put it in for Angel Flight West,’ and I’ll go in and immediately grab her [request].”
Dotian says her volunteered time with Angel Flight West is proof there are countless ways to make a difference and build connections — with or without a pilot’s license.
“You really never know whose life you’re touching,” Dotian said. “Anytime you show kindness, you have no idea how even a tiny thing you’ve done can impact someone’s future.”
Article by David Radcliff