This day I was there because the day before, whilst enjoying a family home evening treat of Milk Duds which I had received in Primary when the sweet children sang "Happy Birthday" to me (and sweet Larkin said to me "Don't think of it as growing older, think of it as the anniversary of the day the earth was graced with your presence!" That was a gift in itself!) when my crown became dislodged and left my poor tooth bare and exposed and in pain. I won't go into the details of the pain and suffering as I went through x-rays and probing and poking about my mouth. There was a moment when I was clinging to the ceiling with my fingernails and toenails and screaming like a banshee--just the usual. The dentist determined that I would need a root canal and glued the crown back on in a temporary manner and told me to make an appointment with an endodontist to schedule the torture. I spent some time consulting with the office manager who was consulting with my insurance company who concluded that there was a 12 month waiting period for such dental procedures. Nevermind that we had had the same insurance company for the year previous even though Andy was working for a different company.
I walked out of the office with half my face half numb and as I got into the car, I glanced in the rear-view mirror. I saw white, chalky drool all around my lips and cheek and chin. Awesome. I had been discussing insurance matters all the while looking like a toddler who had been dribbling milk. It would be a thoughtful courtesy if the staff would offer a damp towel and a mirror to patients before they step out into public.
I had to fill some prescriptions for pain killer and an antibiotic, so I went to Walmart. I hurried past the solicitor parked there at the entrance--they are usually trying to get signatures for a petition of one kind or another. I was feeling pretty sorry for myself as I dropped off the prescriptions and they told me it would be a 45 minute wait. My mouth was throbbing and I was sooo hungry. But I didn't dare eat after all I had been through. I needed some things at the grocery store so I headed a few blocks over to Stater Brothers.
As I was heading into the store, I saw a homeless man sitting on the sidewalk, leaning against the large display of bottled water. It was hot and sunny and he looked miserable. His face was reddened from the sun and what appeared to be a rash of some kind. He was dirty and unkempt. I walked into the store thinking about how sad it is that people end up like that. He was someone's son. What happened? I grabbed some Gatorade thinking I would give him that on my way back out. I hesitate to give money because I don't want to enable an addiction. I thought of water but he looked like he needed something more.
I leaned down to offer him the Gatorade and he looked up.
I felt overwhelmed by the futility and sadness of the situation.
He took the Gatorade and smiled.
Every one of his teeth were broken and rotted.
I cried all the way back to Walmart. On the way back into the store, I noticed the poster on the little table of the solicitor I had ignored before. It said "Homeless Outreach". I walked over and asked what it was they do. He was hesitant--he had been ignored and brushed off all afternoon, I'm sure. He explained their facility and the work they did. It was a religious ministry. He told me his own experience of being homeless, emphasizing that it isn't always drug addicts and alcoholics who are homeless. I looked him in the eyes and told him it was a wonderful thing he was doing. I shoved cash into the slot of the little metal box he had there on the table. A pittance.
I don't need to tell you that I drove home with a new found perspective.