Saturday, September 26, 2009

The Soloist

Last night some of my friends were celebrating a birthday, but I was still feeling a little poorly so I didn't go. While Jeffrey was at the dinner, I watched a movie from Redbox called "The Soloist." In case you haven't heard of it, here's a short synopsis:

Nathaniel Ayers was a homeless man who was met by chance on the streets of Los Angeles one day by a reporter named Scott Lopez. Scott had been attracted to the man's makeshift home on the street because he heard beautiful violin music being played over the din of passing cars. When he got closer to the sound, he realized that the man playing the violin had only two strings, but still managed to make lovely music. Upon questioning Nathaniel, Scott found that Nathaniel had once been a cellist at the prestigious arts school called Juilliard.

At first the story only intrigued Scott--he spent a few hours tracking down Nathaniel's history by contacting his sister and the admissions department at Julliard--but later the intrigue turned into compassion and even friendship between the two unlikely companions. Scott eventually learned that Nathaniel's fall from the top ranks of the cello section at Juilliard came soon after his symptoms of schizophrenia took hold. As is the case with many homeless people, mental illness had left Nathaniel without friends, without money, without the capacity to hold a job, and without hope, but mercifully the disease did not rob him of his gift with music.

As I've said before, Scott and Nathaniel found friendship, and along the way Nathaniel was able to find his way back to music, thanks to Scott's articles in the newspaper about him and the donation of a cello from a generous reader.

I thought about the themes and messages of the movie all day today. I've done some ministry in the past with the homeless, but for a long time I've used our precarious financial status as a reason to stop helping the homeless. I was tested today, though.

As I was returning the movie I had rented to Redbox I was approached by a homeless man with his dog. He asked me very politely if I could give him any money. I told him that I didn't have any cash with me (which was true), but wished him a good afternoon.

I got back into the car with Jeffrey and immediately felt terrible about the way I had reacted to the man. My guilt was compounded as the words of my Lord Jesus began to circulate in my mind.

"For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,
a stranger and you gave me no welcome, naked and you gave me no clothing, ill and in prison, and you did not care for me. Then they will answer and say, 'Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or ill or in prison, and not minister to your needs? He will answer them, 'Amen, I say to you, what you did not do for one of these least ones, you did not do for me." Matthew 25:42-45
"Feed my sheep."
"Take care of my lambs."

As we drove to Chick-fil-A to buy our dinner, I was overwhelmed with compassion for the man I had just wished "good day" without fulfilling a single one of his physical needs. How empty my words must have seemed!

Jeffrey ordered an extra sandwich for the man and we went back to find him. When I got out of the car I made sure to look the man in the eye as I asked him if he was hungry. He slowly shook his head yes. I asked if he liked Chick-fil-A and he again nodded in agreement. I handed him the sandwich and he thanked me profusely, while at the same time thanking Jesus for his meal. It took him a few second to get the sandwich unwrapped because he had begun to cry. My heart was broken that I almost passed by this opportunity to help someone. I made sure that he had a drink with his meal and waved goodbye to him as we drove away.

I almost gave nothing.

I happily gave a little.

I wish that I had more to give.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Thanks a lot!

The past week was a really tough one at school. I slept very little (because we had lots of tests), had some pretty serious back pain, and got a cold! On Thursday, though, we had a speaker at our Christian Medical and Dental Association lunch who spoke about being thankful. He talked about the value of a written thank you letter, and the importance of thanking those who help us. He told the story of the 10 lepers who were healed by Jesus, of whom only one came back to say thank you.

It was the perfect week for thinking about the people and things I'm thankful for, because otherwise I would have been wallowing in my sadness over tests, and pain, and sickness.

Here are just a few of my thank you's...

To my family-Thank you Mom and Dad for being such amazing parents. I truly believe you are the best parents any kid could have. You are so much fun, have such a strong marriage, display great faith, and have taught us so well. Greg and Leslie-you guys sure have made me laugh over the years. Greg, your generosity and compassion always warm my heart; Leslie, your artistry and friendliness make you so unique and likeable.

To my husband-Thank you so much for being my dearest friend, my spider-killer, my trash-taker-out-er, and my encourager. I honestly don't know if I could make it through the tough weeks of school without you. I have loved every day that I get to spend with you in marriage more than the last. Thank you so much for loving me.

To my favorite teachers-I have been so blessed to have excellent teachers at school and at church in my life. Denicia Hubbard and Randa Upp, thank you for spending the time each week to come up with amazing Wednesday night bible class lessons for grade school Christians. Thank you, Mrs. Stringfellow, for teaching me that I'm actually not that bad at math (even though this week I accidentally said that 3+3+3=8). Thank you, Mr. Pickens, for climbing onto your desk during boring science lessons to make sure we were paying attention. Thank you, Ms. Penick, for having the scariest incredulous eyebrow raise at Wylie High that kept us all up studying grammar rules at night just to stay away from its gaze.

To my friends-Too many of you to name, but thank you all. You fill my days with laughter, you fill my mind with happy memories, you keep me accountable, you stand by me, and you share my triumphs and downfalls. Thank you for being my friend.

To my blog readers-Thanks for reading! Your comments make me want to keep writing, and it makes me so happy to know that I can (sometimes) make you laugh with my silly stories from dental school.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Speling Miztakes

My dad cleaned out his office this morning and found this story that I wrote long ago! It doesn't make much sense and is absolutely riddled with spelling mistakes, but it's pretty cute that a little girl who wrote that story would eventually make it all the way to higher education (and learn how to spell--mostly).

(You'll probably have to click on these pictures to enlarge them in order to read them.)

118 words...26 of them misspelled. Isn't it amusing how I spelled "badger" and "career" properly but couldn't spell "there?"

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

10 Items or less

Jeffrey and I went to HEB two nights ago because I wanted to pick up a few ingredients to make cookies. Technically, the cookies are called "chocolate chip," but this week I changed the name of the recipe to "I feel sorry for myself because I have to work in the lab at school on a holiday cookies." (The name's a little longer, but has more character.)

Our trip to get four items ended up taking about 30 minutes, mostly due to the fact that some of the lanes at the store are not marked clearly enough for some customers. More specifically, all three self-checkout lines were full of people who were scanning at least 50 items, ignorant or defiant to the sign that clearly states: "10 items or less." The lady with the largest amount of groceries was letting her 7 year old meticulously grab one item at a time from the basket, scan it, and return it to the basket. Very efficient.

We thought we were on the downhill slope when all three selfish self-checkout shoppers finished at about the same time, but the young man in front of us had picked that particular night (while in a line 10 people deep) to use the self-checkout line for the first time--with a huge bag of produce that requires that every produce item be keyed in by its four digit code. He did not know how to do this, and had to wait for assistance for each item.

As we were waiting for veggie boy to scan his last item, a woman approached us and asked if she could cut in front of us in line because she had been "waiting a really long time in another line." My response in my mind was, "What do you think we've been doing over here?!?!"

Luckily, I took a few moments to think before I responded to her, and during my hesitation Jeffrey (my better and more compassionate half) sweetly said, "Sure, you can go ahead of us."

I ended up being glad that he let her go in front of us. She only had three items: 2 gallons of milk and a carton of lactaid. I assumed from her purchases that she has a small child at home and was probably just exhausted and needing to go home to him or her.

I felt sorry for her until she dropped her gallon of milk in the middle of the aisle and it exploded all over our feet.

After much trial and tribulation, we did eventually get to check out. Only a few comments were made after we left the store. Jeffrey said, "I think maybe instead of saying '10 items or less' they should have an IQ test for the self-checkout lines." I just said, "Man, it was like Walmart in there tonight!"

And speaking of Walmart, I must tell you about a fantastic website I found a few weeks's called Basically, it's a collection of pictures of people (or animals) taken at Walmart. A delicious sampling of humanity. The website is experiencing periodic crashes due to massive amounts of traffic, but I was able to get on once this morning for enough time to see this picture:In case you can't see it clearly, that is a picture of a mother nonchalantly pushing her cart while her child puts a plastic bag over her head. Anybody know the number for CPS?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Beginner's Luck

Dental school is a process. When you come to school your first year, you know nothing about dentistry. No matter how many dentists you have watched or how many procedures you have assisted with, when your clumsy fingers pick up that drill or probe they will not know what to do with them--guaranteed.

Lucky for you, my future patients, every dental student goes through a process. During the first and second years, dental students work only on plastic teeth in the lab, and on each other. In this way, many lives (teeth) are saved.

Fortunately for us, San Antonio Dental School no longer allows students to practice giving intraoral injections on each other. (They used to, but some student at another dental school caused permanent paralysis on a classmate, a lawsuit followed, etc...don't you hate it when one person ruins the fun for everyone?) Fortunately for my future patients, San Antonio Dental School does allow (and, in fact, requires) that we work on our classmates on less invasive procedures like periodontal screenings (gums check-ups) and cleanings.

Today was my group's day to rotate in the periodontal clinic and work on each other. There are always certain beginner's mistakes that are committed and corrected during these times--after all, that is what these sessions are designed to do; however, today's rotation had more fun than the usual "Ouch! Too hard!" exclamations.

While taking my turn as the patient, I heard one of my other classmates yell to her friend, "Eww! Your hair is in my nose!"

...and that goes on everyone's top ten list of things you don't want to hear from your patient if you are the dentist.

The girl who was working on the now-grossed-out classmate has very long hair, and didn't realize that while she leaned over to get a better look at the teeth, her beautiful locks had fallen directly into her patient's nasal cavity. I'm pretty sure that violates some of our infection control protocols.

Another issue facing "beginner" dentists is that of proper posture while working on teeth. A huge percentage of dentists have debilitating or career-ending musculoskeletal disorders caused by improper posture, so our professors are working very hard to ensure that we all learn good habits at the beginning so that we never have these issues.

In an attempt to encourage good posture and musculoskeletal health, one of our course directors decided to implement a 5-minute stretching session during each of our lab meetings. The course director appointed a dentist who assists in teaching the course to lead the stretching exercises. Our designated stretcher, as chance would have it, does NOT speak English as a first language, so on one of his first days leading our exercises we were all shocked and a little offended when he asked us to, "Take your pants down."In reality he had said, "Take your hands down," but everyone thought he said the former (and some felt obligated to do as he asked).

A not so funny thing about school? Two quizzes tomorrow and a midterm on Friday...

Break time is over!