I bumped into an old friend in the line at Starbucks a few days ago. He eagerly approached me to say “Hi” and as he closed in I could feel the tickler file, in my head, racing through all the contacts of everyone that I had ever met before, it was desperately searching for this persons name. Isn’t that terrible? We have all been there before, of course, where we see someone who we know, and for the all the coffee beans in Seattle, we can’t remember their names. Now, I did remember this persons name about half way through the conversation, which I then started to periodically sprinkle throughout the conversation to make sure he knew that I remembered him. However, at that awkward initial greeting at the line at Starbucks I had to give him the old; “Hey…(pause) Bud!?” The worst!
There is something powerful when we remember someones name, isn’t there? I mean, everyone wants a place that they can walk into and have everyone yells their name, like, “NORM!,” in the classic TV sitcom Cheers. I think we live in a culture where so few of us feel like people really “Know Us”. The truth of the matter is that we were designed to be known!
During my tenure at Starbucks I tried very hard to learn the name of every regular that walked into our doors. I even developed little tricks to help learn names. The first few times that I would meet a new person I would try to use their names 3 times by the end of the initial conversation.
I would use it once in the greeting; “Hey Bob, its’ nice to meet you”.
Then, I would use it one time in conversation; “So, Bob, tell me your opinion on the human genome project?”
Lastly, I would use the persons name in the closing or goodbye; “Ok, Thanks Bob, Have a great day, and have fun storming the castle.” (name the movie?)
There is something powerful that is communicated when you remember, or don’t remember, someones name. Just consider all of all the amazing events that your name has been intricately involved in. I remember the first time I heard my wife, Rachel, say my name when we were dating, It was hypnotic and sexy all at the same time! The million times I had heard “Barry” to that point never sounded like that. I wanted to ask her to just say it again and again! Then, of course, she said it on May 24th 1998, the day we were married.
Remember, in school, when you name got called over the loud speaker by a what sounded like a muzzled school administrator to come to office? “Would Barry Hill please come to Principal Skinners office.” Which is always closely followed by a prepubescent chorus of “OOOOOOOOOOooooo’s”
As a senior Varsity Basketball player at Eastern University I was able to hear my name called over the loud speakers at The Palestra announcing the starting line up. “At Center, from Springfield PA, standing at 6’8″ tall BARRY HILL!”
People get names of the people they love tattooed onto their bodies…. FOREVER! (That’s a whole different blog post).
Some of us are named after family members or our name means something significant.
I also think that we need to realize, really grasp, that the God of the universe knows us by name. That is, He knows us at the most personal and intimate level possible, even if we believe it to be true or not. So, when people ask me how I got “so religious”, I usually tell them I am not religious at all. I like to tell people that I have a relationship with a God who knows my name! God knew Saul so well that he even gave him a new name after his transformation on the road to Damascus. I believe that God cares about us at that level of detail and intimacy. He knows our deepest wants and desires our fears and secrets, and he still calls us by name, into his presence. Our churches should be modeling this truth as well. Our first job is to worship Him and call on the name of God as a community, but right after that we need to be loving the community around us in meaningful relationship.
I have seen all sorts of church greeting teams over the years. Some wear name badges, some are huggers, some are not welcoming at all and are more like 150 pound religious door stoppers. I have a new welcoming team model in mind, The Name Model, where the greaters job is to greet you by name. And, if they didn’t know you, they learned your name right there on the spot. Or, for some churches, a little more drastic measure is needed to wake us out of our slumber. For these churches we need to greet every person that walks in the door, especially the folks that have been there a really long time, they need a loud, “NORM!” Unless, of course, their name is Bob.