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Dr. Reid Says, "Open Wide!"

Some of my grandchildren made their first trip to the dentist .the other day Their experience made me recall my own similar experiences of my youth.

Our family dentist was truly a family dentist. He was not only my dentist but also my parents' dentist. Before Daddy, he was even my grandfather's dentist, too. So by the time I came along, he was almost part of the family, and he was quite old. At least I thought so at the time.

Dr. Reid was not only old but also strictly "old school." He didn't always go along with the younger dentists in the local dental association. He didn't always agree with new-fangled ways of doing things or of keeping his patients coming back to him. They were both unnecessary and a bit dishonest, he thought. His way was to deliver good service, knowing that if he did, the patients would trust him and continue coming back whenever they needed his services. No sleight required.

Whether I was going to his office as a patient or accompanying one of my parents, I liked his office, which was situated on a hillside overlooking the Fountain City Lake (or, as most people called it, the duck pond). It formerly had been located down the hill and on the other end of the lake on the second floor of the Fountain City Bank building overlooking Broadway, U.S. 441, the main drag through Fountain City and Knoxville. (In the photo, it's out of sight just beyond the fountain.) But he had moved to a house that he had converted into a dental office. (Photo by Brian Stansberry;

Dr. Reid's waiting room was plentifully supplied with various magazines for every age and interest. Good Housekeeping-type magazines, fashion slicks, and Hollywood gossip rags for the women. News and sports magazines and Popular Science-type publications for the men. (I recall seeing an article in one of the latter magazines that prophesied that by 1980 every American would have access to his or her own flying car. They're still trying to get that idea off the ground!) But my favorite was always Highlights for Children, and the hidden pictures page was my favorite of favorites.

On the walls throughout the office were original paintings created by Mrs. Reid. I have no idea of their worth or quality, not having yet, at that time, taken a class in Art Appreciation. I had no idea what chiaroscuro, Expressionism, or other such terms meant. That would all come much later.

What I do remember was Dr. Reid and his mannerisms when I was in the chair.

He spoke softly and as though his jaws were wired shut and as though he had a mouthful of mush. One had to listen carefully to understand what he was saying. As a kid, I wondered if he spoke as he did because he didn't want anyone to see his own teeth. Was something wrong with them? Going to a dentist who had bad teeth made about as much sense as eating at a restaurant that had a skinny cook. You just didn't trust the service.

Dr. Reid also had a sneaky way of administering Novocaine. He never prepared the syringe in the patient's sight, but always behind the chair. Then he snuck his hand with the syringe down between the chair and his leg and brought it up slightly behind the patient's head. Before the patient saw it coming, the needle was in the mouth, sharp end into the gum, and then the pain! I don't know which I hated most, the nervous anticipation of what was coming, the pain of the injection, or sitting in the waiting room and hearing the drill dig into other people's teeth.

I vividly recall--can hear even now--two things that Dr. Reid always said to me. The first was, "Now you just hold Mrs. Holbert's hand." (Mrs. Holbert was his white-uniform-clad receptionist/assistant.) "If it begins to hurt, you just squeeze Mrs. Holbert's hand and we'll rest a while." I always squeezed her hand until the bones were crushed and the blood drained dry, but Dr. Reid never stopped to rest.

The other thing he always said was, "Open wide." After I had done so, he would add, "Wider."

I did.

"A little wider."

Just as I was ready to scream, "It's open as far as it will go!" he would start cramming stuff into my mouth: mirror, suction apparatus, fingers, sink, and who knows what else. Then, invariably, he'd ask me how school was going or something else. How could I answer with so much junk in my mouth?!

I failed to realize that the wider I opened my mouth, even if it was a little uncomfortable, the easier I would make his job, the less likely I was to suffer unnecessary pain because I would be giving him more room to work, and how much more quickly the whole ordeal would be over.

As I recalled those childhood memories, I thought of a verse that David wrote in one of his psalms. Quoting God, he wrote, "Open thy mouth wide, and I will fill it" (Psa. 81:10).

How often we miss out on great blessings because we don't open our hearts wide enough for God to give us the blessings He has for us. Good things. Things that comfort us in times of sadness. Strength for our weak times. Wisdom for our times of indecision and uncertainty. And so much more.

"Open wide," He says, and we open just a little.

"Wider," He encourages. We respond with half-hearted efforts.

"A little wider."

We limit the quality and quantity of our blessings by not opening our hearts fully and enthusiastically.

Need a blessing today?

Then "open wide!" Give God room to work!

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