Pay it forward

So there we were at a quick stopover in flagstaff, Arizona our last stop before the Grand Canyon. Olivia bites into a harmless chicken nugget and before we know it, her retainer comes loose. Now, this isn’t just any retainer, it’s a surgically implanted retainer, one that’s supposed to be glued and bolted to her bottom molar teeth. Now it’s hanging partially loose, she’s unable to close her mouth or eat, and we’re over 2000 miles from home and any orthodontist we know.

Right away when Samantha takes her to the restroom to see if she can adjust it, I start preparing for the worst. I google orthodontist near me, kid’s dentist near me, medical emergencies, etc.  By the time they return from the restroom I already know the verdict.  We’re going to need to see an orthodontist immediately.  That should be easy, it’s only Friday afternoon in a town where we literally know no one.

So I call the first name that comes up. They close in 20 minutes.  And they don’t really work with kids.  And they’re not really an orthodontist.  Just when I was getting ready to give up and move on to the next place on my list, the kind woman on the line (whose name happens to be Olivia by the way) says, wait, I think I know someone I can refer you to.  Can I get your number and have him call you back?  

I’m game for anything at this point, though I’m not holding my breath.  While I wait for him to call back we call a few more places, some that are closed, one that is closing, and one that seems promising (the lady on the line is trying to reach a dentist on call), when a call beeps in.  It’s the guy Olivia referred us to.  He asks to FaceTime with us, and right there in the dining room of the restaurant he diagnoses what needs to be done.  He asks us where we are and we tell him we’re at the Chick Fil-A in Flagstaff.  He says that his office is 5 minutes away from us, gives us the address and says he’s on his way.  

Moments later, he’s pulling up with his dog as we’re entering the parking lot.  Less than 15 minutes after that, he’s done and giving us tips and advice for our Grand Canyon trip.  Olivia even said that she likes him better than her orthodontist back home (which is high praise because she has had a lot of orthodontic emergencies and they’ve become fast friends).  

I was simply stunned by this seemingly random acts of kindness mixed with good fortune and favor. Think about everything that had to fall into place in order for the situation to work itself out favorably. Olivia (the lady on the phone) didn’t have to pick up as she was closing the office.  She then didn’t have to refer us to someone else.  Dr. Dowell didn’t have to take the call, then FaceTime us, and then decide to leave his home and open up his practice.  It could have been a more complicated surgical procedure rather than a simple one that he just happened to have the right tools to accomplish.  When I add it all up, there’s nothing random about it.  Generosity, kindness, divine intervention… these are all simply reminders of a world bigger than the one I can control.  

By showing up when he didn’t have to, and attending to my daughter Dr. Dowell relieved her pain and literally saved our trip. I feel totally indebted to him. When I asked him what we owe him, he told us, nothing.  Just pay it forward.  Pay it forward indeed.  


I told him we have to get a picture together, and being the affable person that he is, he was game. Of course the other girls wanted to get in on it too.

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