painting of a laughing man

He Wanted His Smile Back

Often, one of the quickest ways to tell if someone is struggling with poverty is by looking at their teeth.

Unless you’re employed full-time and have a benefit plan with your work, you could never afford regular visits to the dentist for maintenance. As a result, eventually your teeth decay. This is a significant justice issue in this country that I strongly believe must be addressed.

Access to dental care, regardless of employment status, is a health issue and therefore needs to be available to everyone. But I digress.

One of the participants at Gateway Linens was among those who could not access dental care and as a result the inevitable happened, his teeth decayed. Before entering the program, he was too embarrassed by his teeth to smile. He had lost a significant portion of his dignity.

But he was willing to give the program a shot.

He had just enough respect for himself left, coupled with a little faith in our staff due to the relationships that were formed, to take a leap of faith. To make a long story short, he was an excellent participant and graduated a few months later from the program. Gateway Linens offered him the usual stipends and bonuses for graduates, and he could only think of one thing to use the money for in order to make a fresh start.

He wanted his smile back.

So he took a significant amount of money, went to the dentist, got his teeth fixed (including dentures), and smiled. For me, nothing could have made me happier than to see this man with a smile on his face.

He regained his dignity and respect for himself.

And it all started by THHS staff treating him with the dignity and respect that all people deserve.

It wasn’t rocket science, but was revolutionary.

So on this last Monday of May where our missional focus has been ‘Dignity and Respect’, let’s keep on treating people as people as we continue to strive to be ‘The Hand of God in the Heart of the City’.



Smiling God,
For those who have lost their way,
Guide them
For those who are in despair
Brighten them.
For those who are sick,
Heal them.
For those who are lonely,
Connect them.
For those who mourn,
Let them laugh.
For those who have lost their smile,
Give back their dignity and respect.

We pray you Give us all the ability to smile.
Help us to never take something as simple,
Yet beautiful,
as our smiles for granted.


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