Our name is so important to our identity. Think about it …when someone says, “yea!” we are happy but when someone says,”yea, (our name)!” we turn our head and feel the personal connection.
A few weeks ago I took 6 8th grade girls to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. It was an eye opening experience for these teens. They don’t really know the face of hunger and the face of the poor in this country. As I was moving through the room pouring coffee and juice for the guests there was a man who caught my eye. He was a tall larger framed fellow sporting a bright pink tshirt and blue sweatpants wearing a brighter pink backpack on his back. He was balding and had obviously been out in the sun as his scalp was pinkish as well. He sat and waited patiently for dinner. I asked him what he would like to drink and he said juice. He was so sweet and kind. I knew he was special. I asked him his name and he responded “Buddy”. I told him my name and we started to chat. I told him I loved his pink shirt and backpack as pink is my favorite color (REALLY). He told me that he gets picked on a lot because of his affection for the color pink but he no longer cares. He told me that he has made peace with himself and loves that he is different from others. I loved his candor and honesty. He was incredibly kind hearted. I moved on and helped others checking on Buddy regularly. As I was cleaning up, he walked over to me and said, “thank you, Kristine”. He told me he looked forward to my returning as I was kind to him. I explained it was I that wanted to return to visit him and learn more from him. We parted ways and as he left with his pink backpack filled with snacks for later I wondered where he was off to and where he spent his time. I will never forget the lessons of my friend Buddy. He told me not many people called him by his real name…..they called him names. I learned more from Buddy than I realized. I was reminded of the importance of our names.
So today as I set off on a run with 2 of my running ladies I was not thinking about names or anything other than putting one foot in front of the other and completeing my run. As I ran the trails I have run for 3 years I saw a famililiar face. He is an older genlteman (in his 80’s) with an intense expression and an odd stride. I see him every weekend when we are out on our long runs We passed him once today and I told the girls that I was tired of just smiling at him and was going to ask this man his name. They laughed and tried to guess his name (“Bob” was a common suggestion) so I stopped him ….and for anyone who knows runners knows how we don’t like to be stopped when we are in forward motion so I was taking a risk here. He slowed as I asked him his name. “Ed” he replied with a wide smile….I was unsure if he was flattered that I wanted to know his name or that 3 good looking women wanted to know his name. “Nice to meet you, Ed! Have a great run”. And the girls and I continued on as Ed finished his run in the opposite direction. I will now happily use his name as I bid him good morning on our runs. I look forward to seeing that wide smile again.
Connections are important in this time of millions of friends on social networks and no real feeling of connectedness. Building connections is vital in the communities where we live and work. Names are a key part of connections. Names…they can build you up or break you down. Learn the names of those people in your community and use names to build others up …and build bridges. Peace.

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