A few days after receiving a note in reply to fan mail sent to author Ursula LeGuin (it's actually a book plate, which I didn't even realize at first), I had the opportunity to meet a patient whom I treated after a serious injury.
It's something of a rarity for a patient or family to follow up with Fire/Rescue personnel who treated them in an emergency. That's completely understandable: they may not remember the event very well, or not want to relive those memories. They may have no idea who to contact or how to locate the people who responded to their emergency. And we were, after all, just doing our jobs, so no thanks are really needed.
But from time to time, I've been contacted by people I helped treat, and it's always an amazing experience. I'm bowled over by gratitude that they took the time and effort to follow up with me, so much so that I probably thank them at least as many times as they thank me.
I signed up to be a firefighter, but no one ever asked them if they wanted to be hurt or injured. I'm always amazed by people who work to make something good out of the circumstances in which they find themselves, rising above pain, above self-pity, above self-interest, to express gratitude. It's as if hearing theirs gives me more to pass on myself.