What’s in a name?

I am just getting back from our Sr. High retreat, so my mind is full of different observations and work that God has done.  I will work some of those things into posts for this coming week because I need some time to process it all.  For now, though, I want to share one very profound moment for me that had nothing to do with the speaker, band or anything that was part of the program this weekend.  In order to do that, I will take you back a few years.

I was always taught that the most important thing you can do for someone is to remember their name.  A person’s name is their identity as it represents a significant part of who they are.  When you remember someone’s name, it communicates that they are important and  that they are worth being remembered.  It shows some concern for them as individuals.  So, I have made that a priority in ministry and life to make every attempt to retain names.  I try to listen and remember names of people who I meet and also something about them.  This is not all that difficult to do, if you listen to them and commit it to memory.

A few years ago we did a small conference revolving around the Word of God and service.  The concept of this was to get a small group of ministry students together to both serve together and learn about how share Jesus with the world.  It was an incredible time with God doing amazing work in the lives of students.   One of the nice parts of that week was the interaction we had with other church groups.   We got to know new students which has developed relationships that have continued for several years.  A few of the students have always come and said hello to our group at retreat each year. My interaction is generally not much more than that simple hello once a year.

This year one of those students ended up spending a lot of time with me as we played football for three hours with a group.   (yes, three hours– and I am not that sore) At one point, I looked at her and called her by name in order to get her attention.  She stopped in her tracks looked at me and said, “you remembered my name, thank you for that.”

Thankfully I did not miss this because it actually communicated a lot to me.  I mean, you might think this is such a simple thing, but it is huge.   This highlights perfectly what I have been preaching to my volunteers for years.  When you remember a name of someone, it speaks to them.  I know that this student just happened to voice her appreciation of that, while many will just be honored that it was remembered without saying anything.

I also realize that when names are forgotten and you have to constantly ask, it communicates something as well.  There are people who I have told my name to many times and they forget it.  It makes me feel less important, as I am sure it does to others.   This is all about listening to other people.  If we listen when people speak, I mean actually listen, we would not miss their name.  But, how many times have you asked someone their name only to forget it immediately?

My encouragement than is for all of us to seriously take the time to get to know names.  Try to remember the names of people you meet this week.  This simple exercise might actually help you also love others and point them to the love of God.  It might also give you an appreciation for the people around you.  Who knows, you might just learn something new about someone else.

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7 comments

  1. I find it difficult to remember the names of people from different nationalities. Case and point, yesterday 2 new Spanish children walked into our church. It took me 3 different times before the girl’s name stuck in my brain. Sadly, I still can not wrap my brain around the boy’s. Do you have any tips on how to remember unfamiliar or unusual names?

    1. The only thing that has worked for me with unusual names was to first learn how to pronounce it and then repeat it a few times. I will use their name a few times and try to commit it to memory. This is challenging with twins. I have had a few of those also. But, with unusual names I want to pronounce them correctly, so I will find a sound alike word to help me remember. There was a kid this weekend whose name was Jesepy (I don’t really know how to spell it). I thought he said, “Just happy.” So, that is how I remembered his name. He was “just happy” That might sound corny, but it does work. But,even with all the effort, I have a harder time remembering names of older people, while I tend to remember the names of teens I meet.

  2. My memory has problems, but I try. I remember several years ago, I was doing a student teaching stint and had come back to the school for some reason shortly after. A bunch of my students saw me (one in particular) and started coming toward me. I was thinking the students name all the way to the meeting, but when he got to me, he said “Do you remember my name?” and I blanked. I knew his name, but the unexpectedness of the question (does that to me a lot) floored me. It floored him even worse. I will never forget the look of disappointment on his face as I hesitated. His name was Luke, and I will never forget it or what he taught me that day. Thanks for the post:)

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