Hope you’re ready for these teeth,” I say.
My smiling hygienist lowers the dental lounger. “Tell me about your grandson,” she says.
“Just started kindergarten,” I say. “But after that shooting in Rockford?—his school went into lockdown. Can you imagine? He’s barely 6!”
Her face pales. “Oh, how awful for you.” She lets me talk—all but holds my hand, so intently does she listen.
Then: “I have a kindergartner too,” she says, “and a toddler. My oldest goes to Freeman Middle School.”
I stare. Freeman, Freeman … oh no, isn’t that—
“We chose that school district especially, to keep our kids safe.”
Oh Lord, what freaked me out from a distance is her ongoing reality. Her town.
“I didn’t know,” I whisper.
She gathers her tools, then turns back to me. “It’s been hard. Really hard.”
And I see stories flitting across her face.
Hope cares for others, no matter what
She hands me sunglasses, adjusts the high-powered lamp. “We don’t know the family of the boy who did it. I can’t even imagine what they’re going through.”
Our gazes lock, two mothers, aghast, though I’m old enough to be her mom. Our eyes brim.
Gently, she daubs my lips with petroleum jelly. She makes sure I’m comfortable.
In her town of 400-some people, a boy died that day, died trying to persuade the shooter to change his mind. Three other kids were injured.
- out-of-the-blue, heart-pounding panic
- confusion and helpless anger
- nerves going haywire
Panic like that surges against any mental dikes we build, and who has fingers enough to hold back terror?
And afterward, how to answer atrocity?
I can’t speak now—even if I had any words: she’s cleaning around my back molars.
“It can happen anywhere,” she says with a sad smile. “We just never know. But we know Who hears our prayers.”
“Are you doing okay?” she asks, pausing the drill.
I nod, too moved to answer.
“We have to be there for one another,” she says quietly. “That’s the key to survival.”
Then she mentions today’s snow. She talks about sledding on their property and how much she’s looking forward to Christmas vacation.
This slender woman daily surviving the unspeakable rinses my mouth as tenderly as if I’m her child.
Then she scrapes the tilted fence of my lower front teeth—a major plaque trap—and she distracts me by describing her Christmas last year:
- caring for her newborn
- along with 27 house guests
- 9 of them boys
- plus 3 large dogs
- who bullied her 2 cats
- and she’s laughing …
“We make all our gifts,” she says. “No hope for that last year, of course—not with a village in my house.” More laughter. “I love our holidays. I can hardly wait.”
And isn’t this hope?
In the midst of heartache, a “goodness sighting,” as my friend Kel says.
The Freeman community has always looked out for one another, my hygienist says. “But now we look a little closer, a little longer, to ensure safety for all.”
In a tragic, falling-down world some people keep living their hope out loud. They hold on to life, refuse to knuckle under to evil.
- they tell their stories
- they grapple and grieve
- they seek the help they need
- they steady their shaking hands and help one another to heal
- gently, they teach their kids vigilance
- they pray and hope against reason
- and always, they prepare for the coming Savior
I drive home feeling profoundly cared for—my soul as well as my smile.
Goodness and hope are always moving our way—shining purely as snow—even on the darkest, scariest road.
photo by Geralt: pixabay.com