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Do You Have A Name?
As I approached the intersection, I caught a glimpse of a young woman pushing a cart across the street. She was followed by two young children, each holding a plastic bag and strapped with bulging backpacks. They scurried along the walk until they came to a part in the hedges and slipped throughout of sight. I felt my heart jump. This was probably their home.
Traveling to and from work you become familiar with the route and the activities along the way: the bus stops, the billboards, the smell of breakfast wafting outwards from the local diner, and the pattern of traffic. But one never quite gets used to seeing those nameless people panhandling on the corner or watching them amble in and out of traffic pulling carts or buggies.
Observing a rather thin, unkept, elderly lady crossing the street, I wonder about her name. Has anyone called to her and offered a friendly "hello" today? I would shout out a good morning greeting, but without saying her name would she even turn around to respond?
What's in a name?
What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
— William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
How simple a thing it seems to me that to know ourselves as we are, we must know our mothers names.
Names are an important key to what a society values. Anthropologists recognize naming as ‘one of the chief methods for imposing order on perception.’
— David S. Slawson
Tigers die and leave their skins; people die and leave their names.
Fate tried to conceal him by naming him Smith.
— Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.
He numbers the stars, and gives to all of them their names (The importance of names to God)
The Meaning Of A Name
If we exist, we have a name. However, not everyone knows our name. Our names are important on documents such as birth certificates and driver's license. We cannot distinguish ourselves from others unless we have a name. We even give John Doe type names to those who suffer amnesia.
When I was in high school the trend was to call friends by their last name. It was a sign of being "cool" and accepted. I believe it would be an insult today to be labeled only by your surname among peers. In biblical times names had to have meaning and in a large number of cases a person lived up to its expectations. For instance, Esther meant star, Job meant persecuted, and Moses meant deliver and their life stories reflected the meaning of their names.
We are given names at birth and most of us grow into them over the years. Although, I have to admit I didn't like the spelling of my name as a child and changed it from Deanna to Dianna. -- now, I wish I hadn't. And depending upon the era in which you were born, your name may reflect your age. Do you remember when Harriet and Harold were fashionable baby names? Today, parents choose between popular names such as Dakota, Leander, and Cypress. Whatever our name is, we respond to it when called. It defines who we are.
Resource: Understanding the Homeless
What Does It Matter Anyway?
I have homeless students in my college classes; they are always the first ones at school and the last ones to leave. During individual consultations, I hear their stomachs rumble, which causes me pain knowing they have probably not eaten that day. As I listen to their stories on how they came to be homeless, my heart aches for them. They live in cars, parks, walk everywhere, and some people offer an overnight stay only to take advantage of their situation.
Still, they have a name and it is the one thing that gives them self-esteem in the group. I remember one young lady who consistently pronounced her name out loud before speaking in class, "I am Sorcha. My view of this topic is ..., " This would make the others turn their heads and listen intently to her words. After all, it was Sorcha speaking with the authority and mannerisms of a highly intellectual scholar.
Whenever I first meet a student, especially the needy, I ask their name. Often, they look up surprised, wide-eyed with wonder to connect with who it is that would want to know their name. Time and again, I see a smile as they tell me their name, because it means someone acknowledges they exist. Yes, a name does matter.
What do you think?
Is your name important to you?
Invisible and Nameless Once Again
Getting back to my opening thoughts, if a name defines who we are, it is important and it matters to all of us. So I wonder if not being called to or addressed by someone affects the perspective of the homeless.
Most of us consider them unwelcome or invisible when they cross our path. We tend to look the other way or ignore they exist as we encounter them in our community. It is a bit unraveling to have to deal with them, and who knows what they might do to us anyway?
As I watch her, the lady pictured above, cross the street towing her cart behind her, I wonder if her mother knows where she is now. Does her mother mention her name? Does her name become her now? And when was the last time someone addressed her by her name?
When the light changes, I move forward while glancing in my rear-view mirror to see the last of her disappear between the buildings. Once again, she is invisible and remains nameless.