Ellen M. Lerner
5 min readFeb 14, 2024

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Why We Should Stop Focusing on the Negative.

Photo from Unsplash.

I am going to tell you a story about a time that I could have absolutely solely focused on the negative aspect of an experience rather than realizing it not only needed to happen, but I would have neither grown nor started to flourish if it never happened at all.

A little over three years ago it was a very windy day in Philadelphia. I had all of my windows open and I had paperwork everywhere. I had just recently lost my Mom (my very best friend) and just the paperwork alone dealing with her estate was so overwhelming, I did not really have the time to sit and think about the heartbreaking fact that she was no longer here.

There was a large laminated piece of paper on the floor, and somehow, it got underfoot and very quickly I started sliding towards my bureau in my bedroom.

For whatever reason, I knelt down thinking it could lessen the impact but what I actually did was line my mouth up smack dab with this piece of furniture and before I knew it, I had knocked out four permanent teeth and my mouth started filling up with blood.

For a moment, I was certain I was going to pass out. But I didn’t. I panicked for a second, and quickly grabbed my phone and called my dentist. He and I actually attended the same university at the same time, (though he was a dental student and I was a music major.) He was quite expensive, and I was not always pleased after leaving his office, but I said to myself…”well, nobody enjoys going to the dentist…” so I called him. It was at the height of covid, but I considered this to be the very definition of an emergency. He did not agree. He didn’t really care. Though he did advise me to go to the emergency room to see if I had a concussion. I already knew that I didn’t because I had one once before and this was quite different. I never heard from him again.

During this time I really did start to panic. The only thing I could think to do was run down the hall of my building to a neighbor. So that’s what I did. I think she was more freaked out than I was. She gave me the number of her dentist. So I called him, all the while dialing the telephone thinking, “well, if my own dentist doesn’t care, why would a stranger?” Except he did. I was in shock.

He told me to come there immediately. I don't know how I drove there, but I made it to the office and I was taken back to his chair right away. As soon as he walked in the room, I felt oddly calm.

He was so kind. Gentle. He actually did care and he did not know me at all. He explained that this was not going to be cheap, and it wasn't going to happen in a day, but he was going to give me my smile back.

I came to find out some very interesting information about this man who made me feel so at peace (despite the fact that I was always scared to death of the dentist.) He did not ‘advertise’ this, however I learned he was not only an excellent dentist, he actually recently received his masters degree in theology, “Just because he wanted to…” he told me. Let’s just say, I was very intrigued.

Though I have never been very religious, I was currently reading at this time about stories of coercion, manipulation and betrayal (fun stuff, right,) at the exact moment I met him. I had many questions…and he had the answers to just about all of them.

When all was said and done, yes, it was quite costly but you couldn’t even tell that he had done so much work. He did not charge me nearly what he could have, and not even close to what my old dentist would have charged me, all the while simply doing the bare minimum and I did not even realize it at the time. Because I was just starting to find myself again, and I found him in the process.

He not only became my new dentist, he became a teacher, a confidant and most importantly, he became my friend.

Had that horrible accident never happened, I would have stayed with someone who clearly did not have my best interest at heart, would have never worked as hard as my new dentist did and I would have never met him at all because I didn’t realize that sometimes you have to stop for a second, look around, try and look at things from a different angle, a new angle…because if you’re not careful you could miss something very important.

I believe (and have always believed) that everything really does happen for a reason. I was not only in need of a friend, but because I missed my Mom so much I had no idea I could receive such honesty, guidance and most especially kindness from a stranger. I was supposed to meet him.

Last check-up I needed a root canal. I already knew what it was going to cost. When all was said and done he didn’t even charge me half. I said…”You are so incredibly kind, but this is your job. You worked very hard…” and he replied, “Ellen…I wish I didn’t have to charge you at all.” How many people do you know would do such a thing?

Not many.

And here’s the kicker…I also realized something else. I am here, on this earth all because of a dentist. My parents were introduced by their dentist. On a blind date. Though he knew my Dad was not interested in marriage or children he still felt compelled to tell my Dad that “he had this very cute and very funny patient that he really wanted my Dad to meet. Just go out on one date…see what happens.”

August 31 1969 was my parent's anniversary. I never got the chance to meet this dentist and thank him, but maybe he is one of the reasons I met this wonderful man who saved me in so many ways.

Once you are able to change your perspective, everything around you will start to change. I'm not kidding. It's the truth.

‘If you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.’

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Ellen M. Lerner

My name is Ellen. I am a Composer. A Pianist and Vocalist. A Student. A Writer and most of all...I'm a Survivor.