Those folks who used to put together Campus Life magazine got my vote. With an incredible regularity they would put the cookies on the lower shelf so that any high schooler in America could thumb through the thing without getting turned off. One of their secrets was frequent humor, lots of jokes. You know, all kinds of stuff to laugh at . . . some a little gross, but all designed to scratch a teenager where he was itching. And most kids I know at that age are never very far from fun.
I'm sure they got as big a laugh out of Stephen Erickson's article when it was published as I did. It's called:
How to Choose a Dentist
Never trust a dentist . . .
. . . who wears dentures.
. . . who has hairy knuckles.
. . . whose drill is driven by a system of pulleys connected to three mice on a treadmill.
. . . who sends you a Christmas card and charges you for it.
. . . who chews tobacco and spits the juice into the sink.
. . . who uses the suction hose to empty your pockets.
. . . who is also a barber.
. . . who sprays his equipment with Lysol to sterilize it.
. . . who uses lead for fillings.
You can always trust a dentist . . .
. . . who has never chewed gum.
. . . who looks like Jack Nicholson.
. . . who doesn't ask you questions when your mouth's full.
. . . who puts you to sleep two weeks before your appointment.
. . . who uses a laser instead of a drill.
. . . who cancels your appointment to play tennis.
. . . who has mellow rock piped into his office instead of elevator music.
. . . who doesn't strap you in the chair.
Anybody—high schooler or not—who has gone through the predental appointment shakes can identify with those crazy comments. How great it would be to find a member of the professional drill team who fits the latter rather than the former list!
As I smiled through the descriptions, I was struck with a sudden rush of insight hidden behind the humor. Basically, it's the trauma of fear that makes us dread getting strapped into the hot seat. Fear of pain, fear of discomfort, brought on by seeing a grown man in a white outfit with a needle behind his back and that "I'm gonna gitcha" look in his eye. Such trauma calls for an antidote equally powerful. In a word, it is trust . . . reliance on character, skill, and competence. It's having confidence. Being assured he knows what he's doing. You don't want some clown jabbing you in the jaw who has to consult a do-it-yourself-dentistry handbook while you're getting numb. You also know you're in for trouble if he comes at you as clumsy as a Sherman tank. The doc has to have class to put your mind at ease; otherwise, your trust is undermined. Trust calms trauma. It's as simple as that.
What is true in the dentist's waiting room and office is also true in everyday life. We must learn to consciously abandon ourselves to Someone who is trustworthy. More on that tomorrow in Part Two.