What's in a name?

Names matter. I always feel seen and respected when someone I barely know remembers my name. I often feel irritated if I have interacted with someone a number of times and they obviously can’t recall my name. I am trying to be mindful to say and retain the names of others while giving grace to those who can’t bring to mind my own.

At our local YMCA, the employees wear nametags. Rather than just be transactional with the person who scans in my membership card, I try to read the nametag and speak to them by name. It often leads to a true knowing of their name along with the added bonus of short yet sweet human interactions. This has not always been my practice.

Each of our sons have middle names that honor someone in our family. We picked their first names because we liked the way they sounded. When I was a child, I was embarrassed and sometimes teased about my middle name, Adair. Now I think it is exotic, different, and I am proud of it.

Our daughters were each named by one of their big brothers. One of them was named after a middle school crush. The other by a brother with aesthetic sensibility. Their four-part names include a fragment of their Chinese name. Big names for such petite girls. Grace and Joy stand amidst their names. A foreshadowing of the gifts they offer to each one in our family.

I tend to remember the names of children before adults. Just the other day as I stood watching a cross-country race, I said, “I remember your daughter’s name, but please remind me of your own.” I had just been introduced to this mom a few minutes before.

Our neighbor is of Iraqi descent though born in California. She was hanging out at our home recently. Her name is lovely, but it is not common in this country. “My name never shows up on anything. Not even the first letter, Y, is anywhere to be found.” This conversation called up memories of Disney World and Cracker Barrel as I would stand and twirl the bike license plate, key chain, or any other kitschy treasure display searching for Tricia. It was almost never there. Patricia or Pat often made the cut, but rarely my particular called name. I felt left out and a little irritated that my brother’s common name, Mike, was readily available.

My auto mechanic recently bemoaned her given name. “My mother gave me a name that means “little princess.” She sure didn’t know me!” She rides a Harley, runs an auto mechanic shop, and enjoys life with her partner. I imagine that her mom had a different vision for her baby girl at the bestowal of her name.

Names are powerful. Sometimes they represent the hopes and dreams of our parents. They often are gleaned from family names and honor those we love. Each of us feel a shot of “I matter” when someone calls us by name. Taking in the name of another requires a level of presence and attention during introductions.

I have a mid-year resolution, a desire to pay closer attention to the names of others. This simple act is often a powerful connector. When we use names, it can open up hearts to a little deeper interaction and knowledge of those whose paths we cross. There are a lot of interesting people all around. With a little extra effort, I hope to retain and say out loud the names of others.

I would love to hear any name stories you have to share -things about your own name or how you remember the names of others or any old thing on the topic of names.