My daughter’s consistent question whenever we encounter people is “Mama, what’s his/her name?” To which the majority of time I reply, “Honey, I have no idea.”
And my own answer left me feeling like something was missing. Some connection. Some opportunity. Something . . .
So I began adding to my reply, “But we can ask, if you want.”
I think about why I don’t bother to know people’s names. I take great care to get off of my cell phone when I am checking out at the grocery store or ordering my coffee at Starbucks. But I rarely make use of the nametag pinned on for my reference.
Joan Chittister in “Listen with the Heart: Sacred Moments in Everyday Life” says this:
Naming is clearly a holy act, an act of creation. It begets identity. . . There is no greater extinction than not to be called by name. What we do not address directly does not exist for us. And the people who are not being addressed know it.
I imagine Jesus traveling on his journeys referring to people by their names. An act which signified intimacy, care, and respect. And yet most of the time, I am too busy to even read that little nametag and speak to someone using his or her name.
So I began an experiment. I started easy on myself. For those people whose names were identified for me, I used them. In the grocery store check out line, I thanked the cashier by name. When I ordered food at a restaurant, I greeted the server by name. And so on. The results were certainly varied. Some people didn’t seem to notice; perhaps because they are used to hearing their own names called. Some people looked at me a little funny; maybe the intimacy was a little too much. But many people responded by a question or a comment: they engaged in conversation with me. Just one example: The lady at the gym shared about her son with sickle cell anemia and the courage of his brothers who were being tested to see if they were a match for a transplant. Wow! I never would have known if I hadn’t stopped to engage her. Now I can pray for her and have a reason to follow up later.
So I’m curious. Anyone experimented with name-calling (the good kind!) recently?