I am terrible at remembering names. Ask anyone. Remembering names is my Achilles heel. I don’t know why, either. Of all people, I’m someone who should know that names are important. After all, my name is Shannon. That name isn’t unusual, of course, unless you’re a boy like me. When I was younger, my grade school and middle school classmates repeatedly (and sometimes painfully) reminded me that Shannon is typically a girl’s name. And yet, despite years of torment, my inability to remember names persists. It’s bad, too. Here are a few embarrassing examples:
-Before we were married, my wife Erin and I were out to dinner. I guess I had been showing signs of not noticing details about her…or something like that…I can’t remember. Anyway, at some point during our conversation, she asked me if I knew her middle name. I instantly knew I didn’t, but I guessed anyway. Bad idea. (That night, she also asked if I knew her eye color and then closed her eyes. That little quiz ended badly too.)
Anyway, back to the names…
-As part of my full-time position at St. Peter Church in Fulton, MO, I teach music part-time in the grade school. For whatever reason, I have a very difficult time remembering the names of all of the pre-schoolers. It shouldn’t be such a problem as there are only about twenty of them, but there are four or five I couldn’t name right now if I had to. I’m fairly certain the other pre-school teachers know this about me, but are nice enough not to keep it to themselves.
-A few weeks after my nephew Chase came into the world, I was at a family get-together. One of my cousins was commenting on the undeniable cuteness of the new baby. That cousin then asked for the name of the little one. I had no idea and had to admit I had no idea. That one was pretty bad. Luckily, my sister knows me well and was pretty forgiving.
I really got thinking about all of this when I saw the clip below from “Jimmy Kimmel Live”. Take a look…
In telling this amazing story, Mr. Kimmel goes out of his way to name the medical professionals and family members who cared for his son and their family during this ordeal. I was struck because my wife, Erin, is a Nurse Practitioner in a Neonatal Intensive Care Unit. I know how hard she works and how much she cares for each and every patient. I also know that hers is a largely nameless (and sometimes thankless) job. While I’m sure Erin is mostly ok with that, it was awesome of Mr. Kimmel to cast a spotlight on this awesome work done by truly amazing people.
It stirs something in us to hear our name said out loud. Our names have real power and significance. Jesus knew that to be true when he changed Simon’s name to Peter, which means “rock” (Jn.1:42). Jesus knew that to be true when he called out to Saul just after a flash of light knocked Saul off of his horse (Acts9:3-4). Jesus knew that to be true with regards to his own name, telling his disciples: “If you ask anything of me in my name, I will do it.”(Jn.14:14). Jesus also knew that to be true when he appeared to Mary Magdalene after his resurrection. Mary had an entire conversation with Jesus before she recognized him. She only knew it was him after he called out her name (Jn.20:14-16).
We all need to remember that a person’s name can (and often is) a deeply embedded part of who they are: a loved and called child of God. I, for one, will try to keep that in mind as I meet people in my day-to-day life.