His smile broadened. “So many times we define ourselves by what we do. But we, as human beings, are so much more than what we have labeled ourselves.”
There was much more to this bookbinder than I had anticipated. I thought it best to get our discussion back on track. I said, “I came in to just have you take a look at that old book and let me know if you can fix it; and come to think of it, I need to know how much?”
I went over to the shelf where he had laid my book, picked it up and handed it to him. With a knowing look, he took the book in his hands and began to study it carefully. Then he spoke quietly as he turned the book over in his hands. "I have seen many problems like this, yet for every one of them, there is a unique approach and appropriate solution. I know you are anxious to have the answers. We can develop a plan to achieve the outcome that you desire. But first, I would like to know more about you and your feelings about the book. I have found it is beneficial to be familiar with the history of a book and what is most important to the owner before it is restored. I assure you that we will address your choices today and we will have a preliminary plan after this first appointment."
He suddenly looked up with some embarrassment. "Where are my manners? Would you like some tea?"
I nodded appreciatively. I could hear a winter storm gathering outside. The warm aroma of the tea had a calming effect on me. Considering the unfamiliar surroundings, I was surprised at how quickly I was feeling at ease with this curious, yet ageless, old man.
I related my story to the bookbinder about the loss of my father and it why it was personally important to have the book restored. I told him I remembered how the book had looked many years ago and what my expectations were regarding the restoration. He seemed genuinely interested and curious–not just about the book, but also about me and what was important to me.
From my story, it became apparent that he had detected how much my dental practice was involved in my life and the effect it was having on my family.
"Tell me about your dental practice," he said.
I slid back in my chair. "Well, that's a long story," I replied, "and I don't want to take more of your time as I am sure you are busy."
He leaned forward in his chair, "I am making the time to get to know you better. Please understand that getting to know you will be of great value to both of us, as it will help me do my best to perform the restoration you desire. However, if you have other plans, then I understand."
"I have no pressing plans and I can spare some time. My wife and daughters are visiting Grandma after school today and won’t be home for a few hours. And with this cold front coming in, it is really comfortable here."
"Great, tell me about your practice of dentistry." The increasingly interesting bookbinder leaned back and quietly sipped his tea.
I was amazed at how easily I told him about my practice. He seemed genuinely interested as I related my frustrations with the day-to-day grind of my practice and how it was slowly sapping my energy. I told him about the dream practice I had in mind when I came out of dental school and how that dream had evaporated slowly over the last five years.