Forcing myself to eat a little chicken soup

"She said that while visiting with Ben at the hospital Friday evening, she had read my letter to him. With a smile on his face and tears in his eyes, he squeezed her hand and whispered, `I guess I really did make a difference.` Dr. Benjamin Karp died later that night."

"She said that while visiting with Ben at the hospital Friday evening, she had read my letter to him. With a smile on his face and tears in his eyes, he squeezed her hand and whispered, `I guess I really did make a difference.` Dr. Benjamin Karp died later that night."

Mark Hartley, Editor

If you attended the American Dental Hygienists` Association`s annual session in San Diego, you probably met Don Dible. Your initial reaction might have been, "Get away from me." He had all the markings of a salesman of some sort, since he prowled around the exhibit floor, trying to hand complete strangers a sample of what he carried. If you were there, I hope you accepted it. A "sampler" for Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul was what he was pressing into willing palms. Dible is a coauthor of the book, and seven of the eight articles in the handout were written by hygienists.

I regret that I carry around too many character flaws in my personality. One of them would be a mentally unhealthy dose of cynicism. I tend to view the other books in the Chicken Soup... series with the same cynical eye that I cast toward all pop psychology books. My family, though, reads them. I would guess that my daughter has read most of the ones out in the market (except the one for mothers; since she`s only 12, I hope it`s a long, long time before she reads that one). My oldest son and wife also have stayed up late at night reading the stories. My youngest son is the only one that balks at reading books and magazines. I don`t hold it against him, but it did bowl me over when he read the Chicken Soup... tailored for teenagers.

This is my personal background that Dible faced when he asked me if I would review Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul. I had to force myself to sit down and take some spiritual nourishment, as they say.

I`m glad I did. It`s also nice to be able devote an Editor`s Note to something that`s "heartwarming" - a word that must appear on the jacket of every Chicken Soup... book.

Dible and his colleagues at the book`s publisher, Health Communications Inc. sponsored a contest of sorts for the dental professionals who submitted the articles. The grand prize winner was submitted by a dentist, Dr. Oscar Goren in Glenside, Pa. A colleague, Ben, was dying of cancer, and his office accepted referrals while the doctor was receiving treatment. Dr. Goren noticed how much the patients "loved" his colleague, saying things like, "He was more than my dentist; he was my friend."

Late one night, Dr. Goren felt a sudden urgency to write a letter to Ben about what the patients were saying. So he got out of bed to write down all of the kind words he heard. He personally delivered it to Ben`s wife - again, feeling an urgency to do more than what the post office would do.

Dr. Goren writes, "She said that while visiting with Ben at the hospital Friday evening, she had read my letter to him. With a smile on his face and tears in his eyes, he squeezed her hand and whispered, `I guess I really did make a difference.` Dr. Benjamin Karp died later that night."

Kind of makes you shiver, doesn`t it?

Second prize went to Lenora Rutledge, a hygienist in Kingsport, Tenn. Her submission was titled, "Christmas Roses." The title is based on a gift delivered to her at the dental office by a boyfriend on Christmas Eve. She was low man on the totem pole and was understandably blue about working on the holiday. A "young, tired-looking" woman carrying an infant arrived at the office and informed Rutledge that an inmate from the local prison was the next patient. The wife and son apparently were not allowed to visit at the correctional facility. The wife begged for a brief chance to visit her husband and introduce him to his son.

Rutledge consented to let them spend an hour talking in the reception area. She writes, "At the end of the appointment, I wished him a Merry Christmas - a difficult thing to say to a man headed back to prison. He smiled and thanked me. He also said he felt saddened by the fact he hadn`t been able to get his wife anything for Christmas ... I`ll never forget the look on both their faces as the prisoner gave his wife the beautfiul, long-stemmed roses."

I haven`t been this touched by a Christmas story since the last time I watched It`s a Wonderful Life.

Chicken Soup for the Dental Soul, unfortunately, isn`t sold along with the other Chicken Soup... books at retail outlets. If you`re interested in reading it, you can order it through Health Communications Inc. at (800) 441-5569.

Editor Mark Hartley can be contacted at markh@pennwell.com

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