He cared

Jan. 1, 2001
As the New Year rolled in, it gave me pause to look over the latest calendar. Let's see, what day of the week is Christmas? And what about Easter and Thanksgiving? I noticed that the first holiday after New Year's was to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our newest holiday, it always made me a little envious of today's children who have the day off from school. I think to myself, "What I couldn't have done with that day off when I was nine."

Don Dible

As the New Year rolled in, it gave me pause to look over the latest calendar. Let's see, what day of the week is Christmas? And what about Easter and Thanksgiving? I noticed that the first holiday after New Year's was to be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Our newest holiday, it always made me a little envious of today's children who have the day off from school. I think to myself, "What I couldn't have done with that day off when I was nine."

I'll be at work on Martin Luther King Jr. Day. And like many other holidays, I'll get to visit with the children who have the day off from school and whose parents know this is a great time to bring little Johnny to the dentist. And like many other holidays, I will inquire of my young friends, "Why do you have today off from school?"

Once I was curious to know if my youngsters knew who Dr. Martin Luther King was and why his birthday was a holiday. I asked one little boy of about eight and he couldn't come up with an answer. He had no idea; and the response he did give was not pleasant. I began to wonder if schools were overlooking the importance of Dr. King's contributions to our society. Undaunted, I continued to survey my young patients.

In the early afternoon, a little girl visited our office. During the course of her examination, I asked why she didn't have school that day. I wasn't really expecting a response. She had a mild learning disability and undoubtedly wouldn't know the answer. She quickly responded, "Martin Luther King." Wondering what she knew about Dr. King, I asked, "What did he do?" There was a pause ... she was thinking.

I, too, was thinking. I was thinking what a tragedy that all these children have the day off from school and don't know why. I coaxed her a little more, "Come on, what did he do? You know."

The first-grader looked me in the eye and, in a small but sure voice, answered, "He cared."

Her words echoed in my mind. "He cared."

I learned something that day ... something about myself and about a special little girl. Since then, Dr. King's birthday has never been the same for me. That child brought tears to my eyes. In all her innocence, she knew what counted. I had tears because someday, like most of us, she'll probably forget what counts. I had tears because maybe I wasn't talking to a little first-grader at all. Maybe for that one brief, tiny moment, God was talking to me. Six years later I still can't forget it.

"He cared" was written by John R. Grasso, DDS. EXTRAS are great Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul stories edited by co-author and keynote speaker, Don Dible, for which there simply wasn't enough room in the book. Not sold in stores, Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul is available by phone toll-free at (800) 247-6553 or by mail from DMD House, 1250 Oakmead Parkway, Suite 210, Sunnyvale, CA 94085 for $12.95 plus $4 shipping. Quantity discounts available. You may contact Don Dible at [email protected].

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