Pulling into the dentist lot, I pocketed my keys, locked the door, and shifted black knit mittens higher up my wrists. A winter wind howled and whipped up snow in swirls around me. In the lobby a gas fireplace radiated tantalizing heat and the free hot coffee tempted me to sully my freshly-brushed teeth.
|Photo: Eric Wienke, Creative Commons, cc license|
Several minutes later in a reclining dentist chair, I gagged on cardboard x-ray pieces, and apologized to the dental hygienist. In between putting cardboard into my mouth, we talked and got to know each other more. As she side-danced in and out of the room for the xrays and I wriggled my toes in frantic attempts to distract my gag reflex, we found more in common.
Twenty minutes later, my jaw propped open and her face near mine as she worked patiently, graciously, on my mouth, I thanked her. In between water rinsings and removal, I repeated it.
"Thank you for your work on me. I appreciate it. You must see some scary things," I laughed sheepishly. She had spent extra time on my mouth, I knew, and her generosity was meaningful.
"You know, I see past the teeth," she said, her brown eyes the only thing I could see behind her green mask.
I see past the teeth. Her statement stuck with me and its beautiful meaning has curled up and taken residence in my mind this weekend. Because we all have situations where we could merely see the teeth, merely see the task before us, and forget the person behind it. I see past the teeth.
Whatever your job, whatever your volunteer position, whatever your role in your family or friend community, this deeper awareness of the people you are really showing love to and serving should bubble up. I see past the teeth.
Crumpled between my hands in the reclining chair was a wadded tissue paper. Bringing it out off and on, I smiled and brushed away splashed water from my cheeks and chin. The hygienist's metal scraping tool pricked and poked, and I curled up my toes several times, and tried to focus on a spot behind her head on the ceiling. Distracting my mind, I reviewed a speech, worked on a verse, and intentionally relaxed my shoulders.
"Are you okay?" she asked.
"I'm fine. Thank you for your work on me today. I appreciate it," I grinned, swiping my right cheek again. "I think God used you to answer my prayer this morning."