Monday, June 17, 2013

We Can't Make the World Right But Can Do the Right Thing

Yesterday was Father's Day. Most consider the day a tribute TO fathers. I prefer to celebrate with tributes FROM a father. That's how this Father's Day weekend played out for me.

I told my Dad, who will be 91 this year, is in excellent physical health, and is incredibly sharp of mind, a couple of years ago that when I grow up I want to be a philanthropist.

I still do. But I'm still growing up and philanthropy requires a certain status in life, and a certain level of financial success, both of which I have yet to attain, but the goal of being a philanthropist drives me every day.

So charity is as close as I can get at this stage in my life, in particular if it is to help children or animals.

So many children and so many animals are without - without good homes, without basic needs, without love or attention. Some have been through such difficult times and just need some generosity.

I was fortunate this past weekend to give a little back to this world that has been so kind to me by using the gifts of my success to transport a couple of children who had sustained burn injuries from Champ Camp to their homes using my airplane.

Champ Camp is a week-long, residential summer camp experience for child burn survivors ages 5-16. It's free to all burn survivors and the camp usually hosts about 130 children.

Arrisa and Daniel - my two Champ Camp passengers. 

A lot of these kids don't have transportation to the camp, which is in Wonder Valley in Sanger, California (near Fresno), because they come from families without the means to get them there.

That is where Angel Flight West comes in.

Angel Flight West is a nonprofit, volunteer-driven organization that arranges free, non-emergency air travel for children and adults with serious medical conditions and other compelling needs.

Because of Angel Flight West, many kids that wouldn't get a break from their difficult daily lives would not be able to enjoy the camaraderie of other children with similar issues. Being with others that share the common thread of burn trauma is hugely restorative to these kids - it literally changes their outlooks on life because know that they are not alone.

It was a long day of flying. My assistant and I had to go from Oxnard, where my plane is hangared, to Fresno to pick up my passengers, then to San Diego's Montgomery Field, then back to Oxnard.

We covered just shy of 600 nautical miles on Saturday with about 4.5 hours of flight time, 3 take offs and, fortunately, 3 uneventful landings!

My passengers were delightful, very polite, and very appreciative. Both had obviously enjoyed their time at Champ Camp, coming back with various projects that they had completed at camp. And both had unbelievably bright outlooks on life despite the trauma of their injuries.

The boy passenger, interested in aviation (like a lot of 15 year old boys!) asked a couple of questions about my aircraft and he was completely non-plussed when I explained that it was, "a 1979 Beech Bonanza A-36 with a Continental IO-520 fuel injected 6 cylinder engine rated at 285 horsepower that had been rebuilt by Victor Aviation in Palo Alto, the same shop that builds all of NASA's piston aircraft engines...".

He liked that. It was factual and satisfied his curiosity.

The girl wasn't as interested in aviation, but she was curious why the passengers faced rearward. She was okay when I told her that we could put the seats facing forward but that would reduce the amount of room in the back of the plane.

When we dropped the boy off in San Diego, he said to the girl that he hoped to see her back at Champ Camp next summer. That touched me. Their only real connection was this Angel Flight, and their common injuries. Champ Camp gave both of them a bigger, brighter outlook on life.

Then that evening, just as I was about to serve up dinner, the doorbell rang. It was Ella and Eligh - a couple of the neighborhood kids. They are 8 and 6 years old respectively. I can't say that they come from the best family background...

They come over to visit us often. They like our great dane puppy, and are fascinated with our 26-toed cat, and of course are always more than happy to sample the fresh chocolate chip cookies my wife makes or help out with projects in the garage.

Both kids had obviously been crying. Their eyes were puffy and swollen from tears. I don't know what kind of trauma they were subject to, but I guess it doesn't really matter - they just needed a short period of stability and safety. And they also wanted some pasta...

So they shared the dinner table with my wife and I - a couple of unexpected, albeit delightful, guests who were so happy to sit at a family dinner table and share their days with some adults they trusted.

I'll be 54 this year. I often find myself a bit weepy with sentiment thinking about the plight of those who are put into difficult circumstances through no fault of their own.

I felt like a father on Father's Day because some children touched my heart. I honestly can say that there is no greater gift a father could experience.

The little world of workers' compensation has its own charity for children, Kids' Chance.

Kids' Chance creates and supports programs that provide educational opportunities and scholarships for the children of workers seriously injured or killed on the job.

We can't make the world "right," but as individuals we can all do right things for the world. If that guides us in our daily work, workers' compensation will achieve its original goals.

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