It’s a fact, as confirmed in a recent International Dental Journal Article—there is “systematically a suicide rate among dentists higher than those of other occupations.” (See https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21302740 .) While we don’t yet know why, dentists suffer unusually high rates of suicide and depression. The two dentists in my life—well, one’s not really my dentist—seem to have bucked this trend on their own and seem to be two of the happiest, kindest people I know. I think this is because they are both built to love. Maybe if I tell you a little more about these two dentists, you’ll get a better picture of what I’m trying to describe.
People who are built to love are some of the happiest people you’ll ever meet. They’re confident, grounded and give off a positive energy. They make you feel special when you’re around them. They have a servant-leader mentality. They tend to love what they do and it shows. They love what they do because they love who they serve and, so long as they have the opportunity to help and heal others, they’re as happy as a two-tailed puppy.
Many years ago, Dr. Richards, my regular dentist, who I had been seeing for years, was out of town or on vacation or something for the Christmas holiday. As luck would have it, I developed a very large abscessed gum, which was causing me excruciating pain. Think of a massive boil inside your mouth, pressing in on the nerves surrounding your teeth. If felt like Satan, himself, had found the center of my nerve universe and, with a red-hot poker, was continually stabbing me with it over and over and over.
If felt like Satan, himself, had found the center of my nerve universe and, with a red-hot poker, was continually stabbing me with it over and over and over.
Luckily, my next-door neighbor and dentist, Dr. Pitts, had not left for the holidays. I think Christmas was on a Sunday that year and, being a man, I made the genius move to tough the pain out all week long until Friday night, when, of course, it was too late to get in and see the dentist. After much pride-swallowing by me and coaxing from the wife, I sheepishly called Dr. Pitts, explained my situation and asked if he had any advice for me. He told me to meet him at his office in about 15 minutes.
So, as I recall, at night, on a weekend—a holiday weekend nonetheless—Dr. Pitts met me down at his office, lanced the abscess (or whatever kind of voodoo magic he did) and sent me home with some kind of antibiotic rinse that almost immediately relieved my pain. He didn’t charge me a thing. And, even though I wasn’t one of his patients, he dropped everything to help me. I reminded him of this years later and he didn’t even remember helping me, which signals to me that he must help so many people that this just blurred into all the other acts of kindness he has performed over the years.
I have followed and observed Dr. Pitts over the years. His patients love him. He serves the community, donating his time and products to countless football teams and youth groups. His employees love him. He is physically active and takes good care of himself. He is always propping up others, whether it’s his wife, his daughters, his former teammates, etc. His Facebook posts are not “Look at me! Look what I did!” His Facebook posts are, “Look at this amazing person I’m with! Look at this incredible person I get to do stuff with!” He’s happy.
Her jaws were locked. She was in full fight or flight—actually, just fight—and she wasn’t letting go.
Dr. Richards, my regular dentist, seems to be cut from the same cloth. I have so many Dr. Richards stories that I could fill a book. But I’ll just share a few.
My daughter, Abby, must have been about 5 years old. It was one of her first trips to the dentist and she was so nervous she asked me to hold her in her arms while Dr. Richards worked on her teeth. Dr. Richards was so nice and kind to her, just chatting it up the way dentists do, when all the sudden I heard this blood-curdling scream come out of his mouth. As it turns out, my sweet little Abby had chomped down on his finger with a python death grip and wouldn’t let go. Her jaws were locked. She was in full fight or flight—actually, just fight—and she wasn’t letting go.
There were no harsh or negative words from Dr. Richards. No scolding. Nothing like, “What the heck is wrong with your kid!” As I recall, he complimented Abby on her strong jaw muscles and made her giggle about the whole thing.
Dr. Richards is patient with me, too. You see, my body metabolizes lidocaine and articaine faster than a lawyer can take money. By the time the doc has given me the shot and gets his drill turned on, the numbness has gone and I can feel everything. Dr. Richards and I learned this the hard way. So, poor Dr. Richards must give me multiple injections and stock up on the lidocaine, articaine, adrenaline and epinephrine just to keep me numb. I take about twice as long as all of his other patients. But never, not once, has he complained or made me feel like a wimp. He seems to say just what I need to hear to make my bruised male ego feel better.
Dr. Richards has done acts of kindness for my family that he probably wouldn’t want me to write about publicly, so I won’t. He has helped us out in rough times. I’ll leave it at that. He has made multiple trips to the Dominican Republic or Haiti (I can’t remember which one) with members of his staff and family to provide free dental care to those in need. He has a gift for putting people at ease and making sure they are comfortable. He makes people feel loved and important. I don’t know how he does it. He just does it. I can’t explain it. It’s a gift, I suppose. He’s physically active. He loves the outdoors. He is a happy person and I love being around him. There’s a positive energy I get. He just exudes it. The license plate on his truck says, “Dr. Smile.” That’s a good description.
So, what do these two dentists have in common (other than I think they might be cousins or some distant relation)? How do they buck the trend that seems to afflict so many others in their profession? I think they have both learned what I wrote about in my book, Built to Love:
Choosing love adds purpose to an otherwise meaningless existence. To a heart built to love there are no mundane jobs. As long as there are people where you work, your work is the most important work on earth. This is because you will see your work as being larger than the work itself. You’re not there to build the company. You’re there as an emissary of God to build others. And in so doing, you build yourself and experience joy and happiness.
Thank you, Dr. Richards and Dr. Pitts, for serving your community and building others up. Hundreds of people pass through your doors and sit in your chairs each month. You are doing more than healing wounded teeth. You are healing wounded souls. You are healing a wounded world.
Everyone, whether they be a Wal Mart greeter, a fast food worker, a teacher, an accountant, an engineer, etc., could take a cue from you. All it takes is a paradigm shift. All it takes is the realization that, so long as you interact with people, you have the most important job in the world.
There may be days when you feel empty, like you have nothing to give, like you just can’t give. But dig deep. Push through. Force yourself to get outside yourself. Force yourself to think of others first. Stop processing your own feelings and start trying to empathize with those around you. We were created as conduits, not reservoirs, of God’s love. The miracle of God’s plan is that the best way you can keep God’s love is by giving it away. It seems that if you want to feel God’s love, you have to share it. Try sharing it today and that empty void inside of you will soon be replaced with love and contentment.
You can’t love Him if you don’t encourage, lift and support your fellow human beings. However much you learn about God doesn’t mean a hill of beans if you don’t learn about the people you share this planet with. Figure them out and you’ll figure Him out. Get connected with them and you’ll get connected with Him. Take care of them and He’ll take care of you. It’s that simple. Like Dr. Richards and Dr. Pitts apparently did long ago, make the decision to become built to love today and you, too, will buck the trend and find happiness in a dark world. Decide today that you, too, will become built to love!