Whenever I am in Vancouver, I visit the cemetery where my late wife, Shahinool, has her final resting place. I have a cousin who is buried there too, as is my grandmother, and now my father. On one visit, some four years ago, I stood there contemplating the lives of these departed loved ones, thinking about not only what they meant to me, but how their lives touched so many others.
Inevitably, I began thinking of the kind of legacy I would leave. When my time comes, can I say I have made a real difference in the world? I have achieved a good measure of material success, for which I am grateful, and I like to think I have had a favorable impact on many lives in a professional capacity. I am also immensely proud of my sons. But what about the greater world beyond?
The Open Wide Foundation
It was around that time that I became involved in the creation of the Open Wide Foundation. For a long time, my partner Dr. Glen Wysel, and his wife, Lisa, had been talking with me about finding a creative way to give backâone that didnât involve just charitable giving but focused more on creating a lasting, sustainable difference for a community. Then we talked with a young man named Matt OâShea who told us about his experiences in Guatemala and how he could help us establish a clinic there.
I remember when we first convened a group of really smart people to work out the details and we talked about finding a name. We settled on Open Wide because it really told the whole storyâhow by opening wide our hearts, those of us in the dental industry could get those patients who most desperately needed oral health intervention into a chair where they could open wide, and by doing so we would open wide a whole new world of experiences and possibilities for everyone involved.
Recently, the clinic in Peronia, Guatemala celebrated its third anniversary and it has been an astounding success in every way. I am proud to say I was there from the beginning, when it was just an idea, and I have continued to support it every way I can. But there is only so much I could do, because I am not a dentist. When it came to âboots on the groundâ time, the ones who have really been making it happen have been those clinicians who have devoted their time and resources to changing the face of that town. They not only have changed the lives of the people they have helped there, they have brought new meaning to their own lives.
Open Wide: Creating a Difference in the World
So when I invite you to take part in Open Wide Foundationâs efforts, it is not just a request; it is an invitation to seize an opportunity. Itâs an incredible opportunity to take the skills you haveâskills that have brought you so much in lifeâand use them to make the kind of difference in the world that will bring you satisfaction for years to come. I often talk about creating patient value; these patients value dentistry in a way that only those who have never had access to dental care could. This is what providing care is all about, in the purest way possible. I look at those dentists who are there, offering their services and being paid with home-cooked food and smiles, and I wish I could do what they do.
A thousand dollars and one week of your timeâthatâs all it takes. Bring someone with youâyour spouse, a son or daughterâand let them experience up close what it means to bring real tangible improvement to the world, or at least to one grateful corner of it.
As I was reminded as I looked around at the headstones on that last cemetery visit, most of our regrets in life come from the things we didnât do. Thatâs explains the popularity of the notion of the âbucket list.â If your list includes having a meaningful life experience by using your gifts to do something special for othersâ¦well, I know some people in a little town called Peronia who would love to meet you.