I was on a health-care mission in Africa near the foothills of Mt. Kenya. A makeshift dental operatory had been set up for me. It consisted of a chair borrowed from local villagers and a bench carved out of a tree. A sugar cane fence had been constructed to keep the crowds back while they observed others being treated.
I was the only dental professional who had ever visited the area. People came for miles to have their teeth cleaned. Many had to wait a long time. I had to earn the trust of this reserve community I was serving. Not only were dental concepts new and different, but - to them - I was different as well. While I struggled to work in a radically new environment, they struggled to accept me. Many were anxious about receiving treatment.
I called the name of a boy who was about seven years old. He was frightened, just like most kids his age anywhere in the world. I went over, picked him up, and sat down with him on my lap. Tears streamed down his face. In an effort to console the lad, I picked up a mirror and told him to look at those big tears. I knew he couldn't understand a word I said, but I watched as he peered curiously into the mirror.
It took only a moment for me to realize that he had never seen his reflection before. The boy slowly moved his head from side to side and seemed amazed that the reflection imitated him. We both watched in the mirror as I cleaned his teeth. The youngster left the clinic area with a big smile on his face. Not only had he survived the treatment, he also had received a lasting image of his own reflection. Wiping the tears from my eyes, I also smiled, grateful for being able to give him such a precious memory.
Editor's Note: Catherine Milejczak is the author of another article on page 56 about dental missionary work in Africa.
"Dental Images" was written by Cathy Milejczak, CDA, RDH, BHS. "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 are available. You may contact Don Dible at [email protected].
Don Dible, the co-author of Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul, is initiating a contest for a new book titled, Love is the Best Medicine. DMD House will award a cash prize of $1,000 for the best stories written by a dentist, hygienist, and dental assistant.
Dible said Love is the Best Medicine announces a "presciption for happiness and joy." He said the book is seeking "unforgettable true stories that will touch your heart, lift your spirits, heal your pain, make you laugh, and inspire you to celebrate the miracle of your humanity."
For more information about the contest:
- Send e-mails to [email protected]
- Fax to (408) 720-0624
- Write to 1250 Oakmead Parkway, Suite 210, Sunnyvale, CA 94085.