It was the afternoon of December 24, the day before Christmas; and as the newest hygienist in our office, I had to work. The only thing that brightened my day was the beautifully decorated Christmas tree in our waiting room and a gift sent to me by a fellow I was dating—a dozen long-stemmed red roses.
As I was cleaning my operatory, our receptionist came and said there was a lady in the front office that urgently needed to speak with me. As I stepped out, I noticed a young, tired-looking woman with an infant in her arms. Nervously, she explained that her husband—a prisoner in a nearby correctional facility—was my next patient. The guards were scheduled to bring him to the office that afternoon. She told me she wasn’t allowed to visit her husband in prison and that he had never seen his son. Her plea was for me to let the boy’s father sit in the waiting room with her as long as possible before I called him for his appointment. Since my schedule wasn’t full, I agreed. After all, it was Christmas Eve.
A short time later, her husband arrived—with shackles on his feet, cuffs on his hands, and two armed guards as an escort. The woman’s tired face lit up like our little Christmas tree when her husband took a seat beside her. I kept peeking out to watch them laugh, cry, and share their child.
After almost an hour, I called the prisoner back to the operatory. While I worked, the guards stood just outside my door. The patient seemed like a gentle and humble man. I wondered what he possibly could have done to be held under such conditions. I tried to make him as comfortable as possible.
At the end of the appointment, I wished him a Merry Christmas—a difficult thing to say to a man headed back to prison. He smiled and thanked me. He also said he felt saddened by the fact he hadn’t been able to get his wife anything for Christmas. On hearing this, I was inspired with a wonderful idea.
I’ll never forget the look on both their faces as the prisoner gave his wife the beautiful, long-stemmed roses. I’m not sure who experienced the most joy—the husband in giving, the wife in receiving, or myself in having the opportunity to share in this special moment.