A name is only a collection of letters unless we have connections to others in our lives. I really don’t even like to type a statement like that because it seems so harsh. The other possible titles for this blog included: “Make a Name for Someone”, “What’s In a Name?”, and “Nameless without Connection.” Perhaps these alternate titles might soften the initial shock of my original statement.
In a previous blog I shared my experience and observations gathered when I worked at a boys’ home during a recent mission trip. The residents in this boys’ home were there because their ‘parents’ could not or would not take responsibility for them, or, they were simply unconnected to society. Sad but true. The very fact that many of these boys could not refer to themselves as a brother, son, nephew, neighbor, or friend simply would not leave my mind. This unwelcomed image clouded my mind off and on for at least two days. My resolution was to share my thoughts with you so that you may perhaps make more connections in your corner of the world. This world needs fewer people who are only identified by a collection of letters.
Let’s work with the understanding that a “connection” for our purposes is an interaction which establishes or promotes a positive sense of belonging. The interaction could be through discussion, celebration, working together, encouragement, or any wide variety of other approaches. We might even be bold enough to suppose that there is a “connection theory” to explain why connections are so important. A quick Google search helped me discover there actually are at least two types of connection theories. One involves psychology and rational thought; the other involves mathematical equations, which would never get confused with what we are discussing here. It is very possible that you are one of the first to witness the use of the term “connection theory” as it relates to the importance of our sense of belonging to the people and the world around us!
According to our newly devised “Connection Theory,” I would first argue that associating someone’s name with connections opens the door for “follow up.” Let me explain.
Erin might be the name of the quiet girl in our fourth period biology class who does little to interact with others. But, if she happens to be the girl in the group who repairs the microscope, which allows the rest of her group to finish the lab, others in the class will have reason to remember her. There is also something to talk about because repairing microscopes is cool! It’s possible that kids in her class simply needed “something” to talk with her about since she is so quiet. This seemingly small event could also be a reason for the teacher to recognize Erin. It can be that simple.
When we meet new students who enroll late in the year, we make a focused effort to make them feel welcomed by having a small party in their honor in Lunch Bunch. All it takes is a tray of brownies and ice cream, and our new student is the cause for celebration. We arrange for five or six kids to join the party and go from there. When we tell our new student the “party” is the next day, he or she gets a real sense of importance. If we schedule the party three or four days later, he also experiences positive anticipation. Either way, the new student gets a sense of belonging and recognition which can be the foundation of meeting others. Other students can then follow-up with him or her when they can at least talk about the party.
Events where people can work together are a great way to allow for follow-up. When students helped us work on the lunchroom makeover, our student artists were recognized for their abilities to paint artwork so quickly. A little name recognition can go a long way. It is very helpful for students to “follow up” when they know someone’s name.
My second argument using our connection theory would explain how our names are simply a collection of letters unless we have some connection associated with it. On a television show called, “Cold Case,” a detective is assigned a murder case that occurred years or even decades previously, but remains unsolved. The end of each episode shows the detective returning a cardboard box to a shelf with the murder victim’s name on the box, and the word “closed” written in red. Each time I see that portion of the show I think of how the files, pictures, and the victim’s name essentially have no meaning until the detectives decide to work on the case. The victim is only a name until the crime is solved. It is important for us to show some interest in someone’s life so they aren’t just a name in a box.
Let’s just add a third argument to support our connection theory regarding the importance of names. Think about the funniest person you know. Now think about the most sincere or most helpful person. It’s kind of hard to think about that person’s name without associating their personality or actions with it. Our names conjure up a response. When you connect with someone you are contributing to the value of their name.
It can be simple to become a connector and “give someone a name.” The next time you introduce someone, tell a story about them. Brag a bit about them. There’s no need for embarrassment- simply share something that will help others remember them. Introduce yourself to someone, and make sure they remember your name. Your name is a connection for both you and them. Celebrate someone, even if it’s just a little bit. Give value to their name.
Many of the residents at the boys’ home simply will not be known as a brother. Or son. Or anything besides a collection of letters. I hate how harsh that sounds.
-Chuck Benway, co-founder