Word Up Wednesday: Knowing My Name / by Donna Olivia Owusu-Ansah

As promised, I am continuing Word Up Wednesday by featuring reflections written during my Clinical Pastoral Education Internship. The following was written in June 2015. Again, Scripture was added and minor edits made to be shared here on www.reverendmotherrunner.com

A virgin will become pregnant and have a son, and he will be called Immanuel (which means, “God is with us”).
— Matthew 1:21

There was a popular sitcom on NBC in the 1980’s, entitled “Cheers” that had an incredibly catchy theme song. The lyrics were:

Making your way in the world today takes everything you've got. Taking a break from all your worries sure would help a lot. Wouldn’t you like to get away? Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they're always glad you came; You want to be where you can see our troubles are all the same. You want to be where everybody knows your name.

The song was a hit, not only because of its catchy melody, but also be-cause it spoke to the heart of human desire to be intimately connected with others. A place where people know your name. A place where your presence incites a sense of delight. A place where not only your name is known, but you know everyone else’s names. At the center of this intimate connection is the knowing of one’s name.

Our names hold significant value. In some cultures, children are named after great people from family history or cultural history. In some cultures, children are named after great figures in religious history. In some cultures, children are given names that have a particular meaning. Whether we are named for someone in the past, our names have special meaning, or our parents chose a name that they simply liked, we are known by our names. 

Image from www.peels.com

Image from www.peels.com

Our character, our personalities, the fullness of who we are is recognized when we are called by our names. Being called by name is an acknowledgement of our presence and importance. Being called by name is a point of connection, so much so that in recent years telemarketers will often use the first name of a consumer to create a sense of familiarity in order to make a sale or seal a deal. Lecturer Dale Carnegie once said, “A person’s name is to him or her is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”

Sweet, indeed. This past Sunday I recognized the power of being known by our names. I ran my first half-marathon on Niagara Falls. It was not my first race, but it was the longest distance I have ever run. In races, every runner has a bib. And usually on the bib you will see the name of the race, the logos of sponsors, and giant numbers that signifies that particular number. When I received my race bib on Friday, I noticed that my name was written on the bib as big as my number. On Sunday morning, along the route there were spectators lined up to cheer us on. Somewhere around mile 5, I heard a man call out, “Good job, Donna.” I did not know him, but there was something powerful about hearing my name called. Around mile 8 and 9, when I questioned why I would ever sign up for such a distance, the folks calling out, “Way to go, Donna” and “You can do it, Donna” fueled me to keep running. Somewhere around mile 11, when I was looking for a ride to the finish line, having fellow runners on the course look at me and say, “We can do this, Donna” reminded me that I was running in a supportive community that wanted to see the best for me. And with 200 meters to go, cheers with my name coming from every direction gave me the boost to sprint to the finish line. 

Being called by name strengthened me for my race. Being called by our names, and calling others by their names, gives us the strength to endure in this race of life.  Today, I invite us to learn someone’s name, call them by their name, and by doing so, acknowledge their inherent worth and value. 

Let us pray…

Gracious God, thank you for calling us by name. Allow us to recognize and acknowledge each other in ways that are affirming, loving, and beautiful. In Jesus name we pray, Amen.