Sunday, 13 March 2011

Little Lessons

I went away to Vancouver for part of this past week for a dental conference. I was lucky enough to spend lots of time with a friend and former college classmate of mine, and I learned a few things as well (100% Xylitol chewing gum people, it's worth the extra money), but I wanted to share the best thing I heard:

At the end of one session the presenter shared her experience of going around the world to India to spend a week providing dental care in an orphanage there. Her help was very primitive, as a reflection of the facilities and supplies that were available to her. The first day she ended up pulling teeth from 8 children even though as a hygienist that isn't her usual work. She gave each child who got an extraction a piece of gauze to bite on to stop the bleeding and sent them on their way. That night she went to check on the children who'd had a tooth pulled - they were still biting on that gauze! She took the gauze away from each of them, gave them a hug and tucked them in bed.

The next morning when she reached the 'clinic' all the children were lined up for dental work, which slightly annoyed her because she wasn't ready to start that early. She asked the workers from the orphanage why did they bring the children when it wasn't yet time? The adults told her that they hadn't brought the children, rather they'd come on their own. Because she couldn't communicate with the children, she had the orphanage workers ask the children why were they there? Every child replied that they wanted to get a tooth pulled. Well, this hygienist couldn't believe that and had the children questioned again. The children expanded their answer to explain that the ones who had lost teeth the day before got a hug and tucked into bed so that's what they all wanted. She assured them that for the rest of the week she would give each child a hug and tuck them all in bed no matter what dental work she provided.

The thing is there's no way she would have taken on the project of travelling to rural India to tuck children in bed for a week, yet that was the service that the children craved the most. Dental care was just a vehicle to get her there.

It was really inspiring to me and a good reminder that probably quite often my objective in my service or daily work is secondary to the real needs around me.

12 comments:

Neighbor Jane Payne said...

Oh man. I'm going to India.

I love your summation at the bottom. It is so true and I am glad to be reminded of that fact. Thank you.

Marie said...

Okay, that made me cry. I'll get a ticket on the same plane with Jane and we'll go hug the orphans together.

Mrs.N said...

I loved that. Just loved it! My little ones ( and big one!) would love more hugs!! And there are so many kids to hug in our own homes, wards and schools. We don't need to go very far at all!

Lucy said...

Great perspective. Thank you for sharing. Sometimes I feel like what I do isn't very consequential. It's nice to know that, even though I have no surgical skills, I have what my little people need.

Kelly said...

I love this. I'm so glad you shared.

Emma :) said...

that is so cute!! i wish people considered hugs as precious all the time because usually we just recive a hug and dont really think about it. i from now on will try to remember every hug i get
thankyou

a happy heart blog. said...

Despite the perspective that it gives to all who hear this story, I can't help but think about those children. Thanks for sharing Barb. :)

Katie A. said...

Oh, I loved, loved that story. Sad and sweet and great.

Katie A. said...

Oh, I loved, loved that story. Sad and sweet and great.

Tasha said...

That is quite a story! Our children are so very lucky. Are you a dentist? I don't think I knew you worked in that field. How cool!

michelle said...

Wow. wow. Amazing that those children would be willing to have a tooth pulled to get a hug.

I know I'm going to be more free with mine!

Jill said...

This is heartbreaking and inspiring at the same time.