Through my time in this field, I have discovered that knowing people’s names is very important for a few reasons. Luckily I am not usually one of those people who struggle with names. I get it after a few times, and tend to remember which has been very beneficial to me.
I remember when I first started at Sanctuary as a student intern, I started a list of names on my phone with a little description of the person to help me remember.
Tommy – talked about coffee
Julia – bright pink nail polish
Matt – leather pants and jacket
Some of the descriptions were silly, some ended up being too generic to be any good at helping me remember, and some people I never saw again. However, writing that list (which I didn’t show to anyone) helped me learn that names and people were important. If I was going to be in community with people, I needed to know who they were.
These days, I don’t write lists of names. It becomes sad to look through old lists and see how many of those people have died, to be frank. I also just discovered I didn’t need them. These days I like to write memories and quotes, but that is a blog for another day.
I can’t tell you how many times knowing and remembering someone’s name broke a huge tension. It’s one thing to ask someone how they are. But to say, “Hey Jeff! How are you?” somehow tends to capture people’s attention. They may think to themselves, or even say out loud, who the heck is this lady, and how does she know my name? But usually it works! People are pleasantly surprised to be remembered, and it feels nice. It means you cared enough to remember in a world where my friends are being forgotten. It means they had an impact in a world that doesn’t give a second glance. It means you want to build a relationship. I will say someone’s name again and again until we are connected in some way, and I really like that it brings me and the person closer together.
I have also learned many name tips! For one thing, introduce yourself first. Sometimes people are guarded, and for good reason. I’ve had the awkward situation happen of asking for someone’s name and they get up and walk away. However, if you say, “Hey I’m Meagan, nice to meet you.” It opens things up. They can either give you their name or not, but at least they didn’t get up and walk away! Another – don’t use someone’s street nickname the first time you meet them, unless that is the only thing they go by. You might get a nasty look. You might get yelled at. It’s happened! And it’s not cool!
There are many things in a name. A personality, a soul, a life, a legend. At the Dale, we like to build community. Everyone has something to offer. Everyone belongs. And if you know people, and even know something as simple as their name, they feel that. They feel like they belong, and it can create beautiful friendships.
It feels good for me too, to be honest. What got me thinking about names today was that we went on an outreach walk this morning as a team. I’m getting to know people, and they are getting to know me. That means they are remembering my name too. It’s been six months. They’ve felt somehow long and short, heavy and light, hard and easy all at the same time. In a place where I wondered when I would become known, I can feel it beginning. When people remember my name, when they come into a room and call for me, when they say too, “Hey Meagan, how are you?” It feels cool! It feels beautiful.
I think sometimes that through all the ways we are different as people, we are also just the same. We want to be remembered, we want to be cared about and cared for. We want to be known. We want to be loved.
From the One that knows every name, to all of us down here trying to figure it out, I say hello to you all by name out there today and hope you know that you are known. You are cared about. You are making an impact. You are loved.