A Touch of Compassion
May 5, 2020
Jennifer Wade, DDS
Emergency appointments are a big part of our duties and schedules at Christ Community Health Center where I work in Memphis, Tennessee. We have a walk-in day once a week at four out of our five clinics, and we also take several walk-ins on other days at each of our clinics. So, transitioning to only emergencies did not feel too weird, it just made our schedules lighter. During this pandemic, I’m thankful we as dentists can provide much-needed emergency services to treat pain, keep people out of the emergency room or give someone a quick-fix to hold them off until they can have more work done.
I have also noticed a cool and sweet layer of service we have been able to provide for our patients during these trying times. We can now not only treat their pain but also be an advocate in their lives who is willing to be near them and touch them. Of course, we do not have any other options, but depending on how we handle this delicate situation, we can extend great love and compassion to them, which people aren’t getting these days. You go out to the grocery store or on a walk, and people shy away from you, sometimes even jump away from you. Cashiers take your money or hand you things with great precaution and hesitancy. Even though we all know this is expected and what people are being told to do, it can still feel like an insult, like you yourself are a stinky, dirty hazard to those around you. So when you walk into the operatory (with the recommended PPE), sit near the patients, listen to them and complete the exams of their mouths without flinching or looking scared that they may cough on you, you are giving them something they are not receiving anywhere else. It may sound obvious or silly, but it is a big deal to have a stranger not be scared of you but also care about you and put themselves at a potential risk to make sure you get the help you need. None of my patients have said this explicitly, but you can see it in their demeanors and in the way they thank me at the end of an appointment. I have heard, “Y’all have just been so nice today. Thank you!” Or I’ve heard, “This has been such a pleasant experience.” And I’ve even heard, “I am so glad y’all were still willing to see me.”
This reminds me of the story of Jesus healing the man with leprosy in Matthew 8:1-3, “When he came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, ‘Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.’ Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. ‘I am willing,’ he said. ‘Be clean!’ Immediately he was cured of his leprosy” (NIV 1984).
The man with leprosy probably had not had physical contact with anyone. Perhaps no one was willing to be near him since he contracted the disease. Jesus could have simply spoken and healed the man, but the fact He chose to show him the compassion of touching him to heal him is incredible. I can only imagine the significance it was to that man. We, too, can provide that same compassion and kindness to our patients during this time. For those of us still treating patients, we can convey Christ’s love through the simple act of confidently and compassionately providing physical treatment our patients need. This may not sound like a big deal, but God can use even these small moments to make a big difference in people’s hearts. This will still be applicable even after the restrictions are lifted, because fear and aversion will most likely abound. So, as you either continue to see patients or look forward to seeing them again in the future, remember now more than ever, Christ can use your touch to provide healing and compassionate love.