Thomas G. Dwyer, DDS, MS
A Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul extra
It was Christmas Eve, and I had drawn the short straw; now I was the on-call doctor for our dental group. OHey, don?t worry,O advised my colleague as he handed me the pager. OEveryone is so busy with Christmas plans, no one will ever call.O I hoped he was right.
As I drove home, my car radio played OI?ll Be Home for ChristmasO and I began to sing along: OI?m on-call for Christmas, you can count on me.O
When I walked through our front door, there was a whirlwind of activity as my wife finished preparations for the special family dinner with our visiting relatives. Finally, we sat down to the first-course of baked acorn squash soup. No sooner had the bowls been removed and the main course served, than the beep of the pager jolted me.
OWho could be calling on Christmas Eve?O I wondered with more than a little irritation. I quickly cleaned my plate but really didn?t taste another bite. Excusing myself, I reluctantly dialed the number on my pager. Between sobs, the woman who answered the phone said she had started dialing every dentist in the phone book and that I was the only one to call her back. She told me she had broken a tooth a few weeks earlier and was now in excruciating pain.
OIt sounds like you probably need a root canal,O I explained. OI?ll meet you at my office in 45 minutes.O Knowing it would ruin Christmas Eve with my family, I kicked myself for agreeing to make such a special accommodation for someone who wasn?t even a patient of mine. With 30 minutes to drive to the office, perhaps an hour or more with the patient, and another 30 minutes to drive home, it would be after 10 before I returned to my family.
OWhat is it?O asked my wife.
OSome idiot, who?s had a problem for weeks now, just decided on Christmas Eve that it needs to be fixed!O I hollered over my shoulder as I stormed out of the house.
On the drive to the office, I heard that song on the car radio again and joined in, furiously pounding the steering wheel as I sang, OI?m on-call for Christmas, you can count on me.O
When I arrived at the office and began to unlock the front door, I heard someone approaching. I turned to see a very pregnant woman walking slowly toward me.
OAre you Mary?O I asked.
OYes, Doctor, thank you for coming out to help me,O she began.
OWhen are you due?O I asked.
OAny minute now,O she said.
My irritation quickly vanished and I felt ashamed for being so upset by this emergency.
OWell, come on in,O I said. OAt least we?ll get your tooth fixed up.O Her broken tooth was badly decayed and clearly need root canal treatment. I explained that I would start the procedure that evening and finish after her baby was delivered. And so, Mary, the unborn babe, and I spent Christmas Eve together treating a bad tooth.
As I worked, I thought of another time, another Mary, and the unborn Jesus. They would have had a very bad night that first Christmas Eve had it not been for the kindness of a stranger; a caring innkeeper who took pity on them and let them use his stable.
OOkay, Tylenol should take care of any pain from the procedure. I think you?ll do just fine. Give me a call in a few weeks and we?ll finish the root canal,O I said.
OThank you very much for helping me,O she replied. OI?m sorry I ruined your Christmas.O
Ruined? Well, the evening had not turned out like I expected, but I felt as though I had been called on to play the modern role of the kindly innkeeper; to help Mary in her hour of need. Ruined? No, my Christmas Eve had been enriched. In some ways, it was almost like being part of the first Christmas.
(c)1999 Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen. Reprinted by permission. Not sold in stores, OChicken Soup for the Dental SoulO is available by phone at (800) 247-6553.