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散文:The Woodwork Angel

2006-05-25 10:02

  My teeth screamed. I couldn't neglect them any longer. I finally ignored my fear of dentists and decided to get them fixed. But how? I was a college sophomore and barely supported myself with part-time jobs.

  Maybe I could fix the worst one. I flipped open the Yellow Pages and called the first dentist within walking distance. The receptionist told me to come right over. As I hurried across the campus, I forgot the pain in worrying about how I would pay the bill.

  In a few minutes I was in a chair being examined by a dentist who said, "Hmm!" as he surveyed the wreckage of my mouth. "Your teeth are in bad shape."

  "I already know that," I snapped, in a smart-aleck way to hide my fear.

  "But don't worry, I'm going to fix them."

  "No, you're not. I can't afford to pay you." I started climbing out of the chair.

  "What are you doing?"

  "I told you, I have no money."

  "You're a student at the university, aren't you?"

  What difference did that make? "Yes……"

  "You're going to graduate in a few years, aren't you?"

  "I hope so."

  "And then you expect to get a job, don't you?"

  "That's my plan."

  "Well, then you'll pay me. Meantime, you concentrate on your classes and leave the dentistry to me."

  I stared at him. He really meant it. He calmly picked up his tools and fixed the aching cavity.

  From that day on, I saw him every week until my teeth were in good shape. And he kept them that way with regular checkups. After graduation, I got a job and settled his bill in a few months.

  In the 40 years following, I've learned to call this man a "woodwork angel." These are strangers who appear out of nowhere - out of the woodwork - when I need help. They've lent and given me money, materials or equipment; they've taught me skills and helped me organize groups; sometimes they've rescued me from danger or making a big mistake. So, dentist dear, wherever you are, bless you and thank you again!

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