I don’t know about the rest of you but I kind of appreciate when someone knows my name. It means that there is some sort of connection there, possibly I have contributed something to their life that makes me memorable. It seems a bit ironic, being an introvert and liking a degree of anonymity, but I still appreciate it when someone gets my name right. Believe it or not it doesn’t happen very often. I have been blessed by parents who gave me a relatively normal name and one that can even be reduced to three letters. D-A-N. My wife, on the other hand was cursed by her mothers spelling which people universally pronounce as another female name … which doesn’t happen to be hers … leading her to have an unreasonable aversion to preprinted name tags at events. Mine is even a biblical name … one that you’d think might be recognizable to even the average pew warmer … but alas, this is more complicated that one would think. I assert that it is not a memory issue or even and identity issue. I am convinced it is a matter of intent.
i don’t think that I’m asking much this Christmas. Just get my name right … say it with me D-A-N, Dan…. not so difficult … or is it. Three letters in a very simple name that seems to continually trip people up. I once worked with a colleague who, even after knowing and using my real name for some time, inexplicably began to call me Doug for the next 6 months that I worked with her. I gave up correcting after the 34th time and just embraced the new identity. Names are important … in ancient cultures names were given that conveyed, dreams, and prayers, and qualities hoped for. Your name identified you in a unique way. Despite our cultures attempt to denigrate them into the newest reality figure or emoji, names are still important and I appreciate it when someone knows mine. A certain caffeine emporium known for its mermaid has built some of its early mystique on asking your name as a means of identifying you and an attempt at creating an illusion of relationship or community. Despite the fact that I have personally made their stockholders wealthy, they still can’t seem to get my name right. It’s now becoming a game for me. A full 80 percent of the time, when asked my name, I have to repeat myself at least once and up to 3 times … because Dan is apparently becoming very unfamiliar in the common tongue. Nearly 50 percent of the time they get it wrong anyway. It’s either Doug, Dave, Don … one time even Din. Really. I get it … they are distracted, busy, hurried, harried … and it’s not really important anyway because we are not going to be friends right. Guess what … if you don’t want to know me then don’t ask my name … and if you ask my name, get it right. Anything less is superficial.
As it just happened, one more time, I am compelled to stop and evaluate. How do I do with communicating importance to people that I encounter? I do know that when I am interacting with someone on the streets who is looking for help, my asking their name changes the entire dynamic of the encounter. It’s human on human, relational and not simply a transaction. It communicates value, as it should, because in God’s sight we are all valuable, even the girl who just messed up my name for the third time this week. No worries, I’m pretty sure it’s become company policy with them when they see me. As a follower of the Jesus whose birth we celebrate this month, I am compelled to spend time in recognition of others. I am consumed with the stuff of the season, but others are not. They are dealing with loss, frustration, despair. Things may not be particularly merry and bright and I would know that if I took the time to know them and their story. Just a warning … it takes more time than we are accustomed when we run through the season determined to insure that everyone knows our right to say “Merry Christmas”. Doing that is as bad, actually worse, than continually screwing up my name while feigning an interest. If Jesus were my barista, he’d know my name … and my neighborhood is full of people who need to know that.