My parents had three girls and me. They gave a lot of thought to the names they gave us and were quite “the enforcers” when it came to what people called us. Kathleen is the oldest, not Kathy. Pity the person who wanted to shorten her given name or assumed everyone goes by Kathy. When Anne was school age, my parents made certain school personnel knew it was “Anne with an e”.
Fortunately, for our youngest sister Maria, and myself, there wasn’t much people could do to our names. But when she was an infant and Anne was a toddler, for Anne, saying Maria was a mouthful so she shortened it to Ria, which became her family name. Being her brother, I took the liberty of creating a nickname, a phrase really, of Ria Pia . . . . and since she is a teacher, I’ll save her from facing 30 students every hour invoking her childhood nickname.
So, that’s a long way of saying I grew up with an awareness of the importance of given names. And on top of that, my Dad’s job was in the public eye and he always tried to use people’s names when they came up to say hello. Doing so personalized the interaction. Recently, I had an encounter with a restaurant worker that made me appreciate growing up with parents who placed a value on a person’s name.
A fresh food take out restaurant sits in the first floor of the building where one of MLC’s offices is located. I stop in for lunch about once every week or so. The same young lady is the cashier and asks my name as part of taking the customer’s order. Recently I inquired, “you know my name, so do I get to know yours?” to help make a commercial transaction a bit more personal. She told me her name, which is unique and beautiful sounding, so I complimented her, and she smiled.
As I approached her on my next visit, I greeted her by name. What happened next took me back. She quickly spun halfway around, her back to me, then stepped away from the cash register, and her voice made a soft squeak sound. At that point I started second guessing if I correctly remembered her name. She turned back stepping up to the register with a big smile on her face and said, “you just made my day!”. She took my order as usual, but then didn’t let me pay, insisting lunch was on her. I felt awkward accepting her gesture, but she was intent on doing it, and I didn’t want to insult her thoughtfulness.
Waiting for my lunch to be made, I reflected on what just happened. Watching several more people place their orders, no one chatted with her, simply placing their order and moving on, talking with their friends or co-workers. I wondered, how many people pass through each day, interacting with her almost as a kiosk, never trying to make even a passing connection. This was a reminder to me of just how important learning and using the name parents gave a child can be, whether in business or everyday life.
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