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Reach For Life's Chocolates - 10/29/2012

A dear friend of mine is a dentist. It so happens that she is also my dentist. That’s fortunate, because  not only is she very adept at her job but, in addition, she has the lightest, softest hands of any dentist I’ve ever been to. When she works on your mouth, you never know that her hands are there. It’s a tribute to her skill and ability, and something her patients can’t help but appreciate.

Even more, her office is wonderful - modern, inviting and efficiently run. But one thing about it always perplexes me. When you arrive, there is a credenza, on which there is a large bowl, filled with chocolates of all types and descriptions: miniature Milky Way, Snickers and Three Musketeers bars, Nestle’s Crunch, Hershey nuggets of all varieties - dark chocolate and milk chocolate, some with and others without nuts, and a myriad of other candies which, at this moment, slip my mind. This is what has always been puzzling to me. Here is this wonderful dentists, who does everything in her power to keep you and your mouth in good health, and yet,  she provides a bowl filled with candy that’s accessible to every person in the waiting room. And I admit, I’m guilty. I’m the one that takes two or sometimes even three little bars of candy, so that I can snack on them as I drive back to my office or home after an appointment with her.  

For the longest time, I joked that this was her way of creating an annuity. You went into her office, she cleaned, fixed, repaired, did everything in her power to make your teeth feel and appear an attractive, healthy part of your body but, on the way out, she entices you with candy designed to create cavities, which will ensure a return visit to her office. Good thinking, I declared to myself, but not to her, because I don’t want to alienate or take the risk of, in any way, upsetting someone who, in the future, will once again have her hands and some sharp instruments maneuvering around in my mouth!

But, there’s another side to the story, which I’d like you to think about. I never leave her office without a sweet taste in my mouth. By the time I’ve hit the first floor, the chocolate is melting and oozing over all my taste buds, soothing any hurts, hungers, or anxieties I might possess as a result of the procedure I endured during my visit. Not withstanding the fact that we all know chocolates are not only an aphrodisiac, they’re soothing to the soul. And, if you believe the latest reports, dark chocolate is even beneficial to your health.

But, on a more serious plane, let’s return to my last thought - the one describing the sweet taste I always have after leaving her office. There is a very positive lesson to be learned from this. How many people do you know who, even as you see them approaching, causes you to think, “If I’m lucky, they’ll just pass me by.” The reason: they’re generally people who leave you, figuratively speaking, with a bad taste in your mouth. None of us want to be that individual. None of us deliberately go through life trying to annoy, upset, or create stress in the people we meet. Quite the contrary. Most of our intentions are basically good, even though you are bound to encounter some exceptions to that rule.

The lesson I’d have you learn is, as they say in the theater, “leave them laughing”. Leave them with something to think about, something to react to, or wanting more of. To a great extent, that’s the way I attempt to interact with most people in my life. I try to take the time to look them in the eye, to ask with genuine concern, how they’re doing, what’s going on their life, or how their family is. The purpose being to demonstrate my genuine interest and care for them and, I must confess, to also entice them to like me, so that, when they see me approaching them, they’ll feel that interacting with me is going to be a pleasure, not a problem. I need and want others to feel that way, because I care and because I want them to care back.

So, my not so hidden agenda, similar to my dentist friend is to leave the people with whom I’m involved with a good taste in their mouths and a soothing feeling of warmth that will permeate their feelings about me and themselves. Of course, this could result in some “cavities” that may prove painful, but that’s  part of the risk you take when you get close to others and allow yourself to be vulnerable. That being the case, the risk is one you need to take, if you ever want to savor the sweetness available in life. At the same time, you have to expect the occasional pain that will accompany it. But, I promise you, it’s more than worth it. Just think of the alternative, living life with cavities filled with obsessive caution, and defensive behaviors designed to protect you from every hurt you can imagine. The result being, you refrain from reaching out for the “chocolates” life has to offer, and rarely experience the joy associated with openly sharing yourself  with others in your world.

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