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Some of my stories are published in:
A Cup of Comfort Devotional for Mothers and Daughters (Adams Media, 2009)
Chicken Soup: What I Learned from the Dog (2009)
Love is a Flame (Bethany House, 2010)
Extraordinary answers to Prayer (Guideposts, 2010)
Love is a Verb (Bethany House, 2011)
Big Dreams from Small Spaces (Group Publishing, 2012)

Thursday, March 7, 2013

The Serious Office

I went to an Orthopedic office the other day. My back's been hurting something fierce lately and I'm hoping this group of medical professionals can help me deal with the pain. When I walked into the office, there were already four or five patients waiting to see their doctors.

I headed directly toward the main reception area and greeted the lady with a smile.
"Hi, my name's Dena Netherton and I have a 2 o'clock appointment with Dr. XXX."
The lady, though efficient, did not return my smile. "Did you bring any papers with you?" she asked, not even looking up.
"Sure did," I said. Handing the CDs containing my x-rays and MRI images, and new patient forms to her, I smiled again.
She barely glanced at me. "Have a seat. We'll call you in a few minutes."

I meekly turned and scanned the waiting room, then selected a spot where I could read a magazine.
Halfway through a National Geographic article about butterflies, another lady called my name.
I'll call her Susan (not her real name).
She didn't smile either. Not that she was rude or unfriendly, just unsmiling.
I wondered if the employees had been instructed to not smile. Maybe the staff considered it rude to demonstrate happiness in the midst of broken legs, torn ACLs, or herniated disks, etc?

Susan escorted me down the hall to the examining room where she logged more info into my paperwork, took my blood pressure, and pointed out a selection of magazines for my wait.
Efficient, yet unsmiling, she excused herself, saying that the doctor would be in shortly.
Not surprisingly, when Dr. XXX entered the room a couple of minutes later, he turned out to be an unsmiling professional as well.
Hmm, I thought. You know how certain families exhibit character traits like a sense of humor, or athletic ability...or alcoholism?
Maybe that's what we've got here. Familial frozen lips.
Dr. XXX asked me all the right kinds of questions, did all the appropriate examinations, and let me describe my pain.
Then he pointed to the spot on my MRI where my problem mostly lay and suggested certain types of therapies for me to choose from.
"After you decide what you want to do, you can call the office and make an appointment," he said an equally unsmiling tone. He shook my hand—barely—then exited.
Serious Susan returned with my paperwork and helped me schedule my treatment.
That's when I noticed that she's left-handed.
Aha, a point of connection!
I leaned over the examining table where she'd spread out my paperwork and spoke in a conspiratorial tone, "So, did you have to learn to write like that?"
Susan looked up and tilted her head. "Huh?"
"You know," I pointed to her hand, "without having to twist your hand into a club like most lefties do? I'm left-handed and I write like this..." I pantomimed the usual clumsy left-hand writing style.
"Oh," she chuckled, then looked around herself with a guilty expression, as if she'd just broken protocol. "Like Obama," she whispered.
"Yeah," I grinned at her. "and Bill Clinton was a lefty and he wrote like that, too."
She looked at me with just a hint of pride in her face and said, "When I started writing, I decided that it looks better to keep your wrist straight."
I sighed. "Well, I wish I could do that. I could never get the hang of it."
She'd finished her paperwork by now, so she looked me full in the face and smiled.
Yes, actually smiled. And asked, "Do you do everything with your left hand?"
"Nope, just writing and using a fork or spoon."
Me, too. And in sports I bat and throw with my right hand."
"Me, too."Then I screwed my mouth into a crazy smirk and said, "I guess that makes us left-handed people kind of mixed up."
Susan beamed at me. "Not at all. Left-handed people are just smarter, that's all."
We both laughed.
She wrote her name on the folder with all the information I needed to take home with me about my procedure. "Don't hesitate to call me any time if you have any questions, all right?"
She smiled a big, happy smile again.
I said, "I'm so happy to meet you," and shook her hand.

I'm glad I made that one emotional connection at my orthopedic appointment. If it hadn't been for Susan and our shared left-handedness, I think I would have gone home that day feeling pretty de-personalized.
These little points of connection matter immensely to us humans.
Our Creator/God/Savior, Jesus understood this.
Jesus was the master connecter.
He told parables. He listened. He answered. He smiled. He wept.
He ate with people. Spent time in their homes. Touched, healed, fed, admonished, encouraged, prophesied.
Can you imagine how it must have been talk with Jesus, recognize His divinity, then have Him smile at you? Incredible!

I'm a pretty serious person, and I'm sure I could smile more often. But after my office visit, I'm going to make a strong effort to smile at everyone I meet. Because you are valuable and loved.

"A happy heart makes the face cheerful..." Proverbs 15:13
"A cheerful look brings joy to the heart..." Proverbs 15: 30


  1. Oh Dena, I enjoyed this story so much!

    The way you drew Serious Susan (not me BTW) out was wonderful. I'm going to look for those small cues to brighten someone's day.

  2. Susan, I'm just glad that your serious name-sake was left-handed too!