What's in a name? When we serve the homeless, we see a lot of the same faces week after week. Brian is very good at remembering names, myself not so much. I've often wondered why some people are so much better at that than others. I've read articles giving tips on how to improve at it, but still I struggle. Probably because I'm all about me and I can remember my name so that's all that matters? But I digress(as usual)
Today a man walked up that Brian didn't recognize, so he asked him his name. "Today its Bo." he replied. "Today?" Brian asked, "What is it usually?" "Well, yesterday it was Al, the day before it was John." he replied with a grin. "It's been Bob, Stan, Jackson... "Who cares?" "What's in a name anyway?" he continued, "You can call me Animal if you want." We were all laughing as we talked, and Brian and I were still laughing about it as we cleaned up, but I've thought some more about it, and I'm not sure it's all that funny.
Names are important to a lot of people for a lot of reasons. Some have deep meanings, be it religious, familial, or just because that name actually means something tangible. I'm not really talking about that. I'm talking about how names feel. When someone addresses you by your name, it gives you self worth. It says you matter, and at the very least it is proof you exist. When someone remembers you from a previous encounter, it means you impacted them in some way. Now this may be only because they want to make a sale, but hey, they remembered! How much better does it feel when someone remembers you that you hoped would? It feels good to matter. So how insignificant do you have to feel, how resigned to the fact you don't matter do you have to be to say names don't matter? How low must our homeless friend have sunk to feel this way?
Or... why are we so insecure that someone remembering our names is necessary to us? Why do we get upset if our names are mispronounced? If we put a name to someone, we now have a relationship with them. It could be a good relationship or a bad one, but it is a relationship. It's not as easy to turn away from or ignore someone you "know"
What if everyone's name was brother? I have a very good friend that refers to all women as "beautiful" Now, he did this purely for self preservation. Back in the day, he knew far too many. He was deathly afraid (and rightfully so) that if he was with a particular lady and called her by someone else's name, it might not end so well for him. So, I'm not suggesting we do it to avoid conflict or confusion, I was more saying treat everyone like our brother. Maybe "Animal" is so enlightened he doesn't have to "know" someone to help them. Maybe we don't either?
Or... maybe he's running from something, and doesn't want anyone to know his real name. That's a possibility too...