On any given day, I’d rather eat bugs than go to the dentist! And, after a long weekend of meeting deadlines, an early Monday morning appointment had me feeling less than thankful for my dentist and I almost cancelled.
But it was a good visit. The elevator music was soothing, there were no cavities or other problems to report and, in no time at all, I was on my way again with teeth polished, an appointment for a return visit in six months and a little plastic bag that stopped me dead in my tracks!
Filled with a tooth brush, a travel-size tube of toothpaste and a blue plastic square of dental floss, the bag was nearly identical to those I had passed out, dawn-to-dusk for nearly a week, while assisting a team of US volunteer dentists in Cuenca, Ecuador.
The indigenous people who came to the clinic had often traveled on-foot, sometimes for more than a day; all I had to do to keep my appointment was back my car out of the garage.
The people came, eager for their opportunity to sit in one of the lawn chairs elevated on cinder blocks for their treatments; I, on the other hand, sat on a sofa in an air conditioned waiting room and leafed through a magazine for all of ten minutes before I was seated on a heated, padded, electronically-positioned chair as a dental assistant offered me a pillow to support my back.
The children who came to see the American dentists in Cuenca often came alone. They were frightened and sometimes cried but, when they did, they did so silently; we all know what it can sound like here in our country when Jr. needs a filling…
I remembered one little boy, maybe six or seven years old, biting down on the gauze where a tooth had been extracted trying to say, “Gracias” when I handed him his bag of dental care items. The gauze fell from his mouth and, with a combination of embarrassment and panic, he lunged for it, snatched it up and tried to put it back. Thankfully, an attendant stopped him before he contaminated the site and gently escorted him back inside for a fresh dressing, as the young boy tightly clutched his bag to his chest.
While the boy was gone, I looked into my purse for a sheet of the colorful tickers I had brought with me. There were not many left but, with a pair of scissors, I was able to pare them into a dozen or more individual hearts, stars and balloons. The boy returned with tears rolling down his cheeks. He had to be in a great deal of pain. The doctors did what they could to numb the teeth before pulling them but, with so many patients to see, there was never enough time for the Novocain to take full effect.
This time I told him not to speak and asked if he would like a sticker for being so “Bravo”. He nodded, “yes” and, as I placed a star on the back of his tiny hand, he smiled. His bright brown eyes glowed with pride as mine rimmed with tears as he humbly mumble-hummed “gracias” again.
Back at the embassy in Quito, I sweet-talked the Community Liaison Officer out of a piece of official letterhead and wrote a letter to Mrs. Grossman’s Sticker Company. When they read how the stickers had strengthened and encouraged the children who had received them, the factory packed up four huge rolls of stickers and shipped them to me all the way from Petaluma, California! There were so many stickers in that box that, when my husband’s tour of duty as Naval Attaché was over, I was able to pass them on to the missionaries of Los Andes for their medical teams to use. www.mrsgrossmans.com
It can be easy to lose your attitude of gratitude in daily living. I am thankful for the LOOK BACK reminder my dentist’s goodie bag brought to me and the words of scripture that tells us, “So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in Him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness.” Colossians 2:6-7
How about you? What will make your attitude of gratitude last longer than Thanksgiving Day?