Learning to connect with people and build basic relationships
I placed my stack of library finds on the counter and glanced over at my girls, each lost in an educational game on the library computers. Lakelyn peered down on the puzzle shelf and pulled one onto the floor.
“Look, Mommy!” she said a bit too loud.
“Shhhhhhh,” I nodded and smiled.
I always feel just a bit like a possible bull in the china cabinet, going into the hushed library with little ones. I never know how much noise we will add to the quiet turning of pages and faint squeak of the book cart.
The familiar tall blond librarian smiled at me as she pulled my stack of books toward the scanner. Over the past year, she and I have formed a unique relationship. I savor her words, laced with a beautiful European accent. I always love learning about people’s stories, where they are from, who they are.
“How has your day been?” I asked. She looked at me with a sparkle in her eye and whispered,
“It has been a good birthday.”
“Your birthday?!” I exclaimed a hair too loudly, and then checked my volume with a whispered, “Happy birthday!” Two fellow librarians paused in their filing and looked up.
“It’s your BIRTHDAY?!?” She flushed and covered her mouth.
Apparently, I had blown her secret. But she glowed in the attention.
She and I have bumped into each other in Walmart and chatted over the excess rain, and how perfect it is for her Lowes clearance trees she had just planted. She has told me about seasonal reading programs and children’s book time…
We have discussed genuine leather bags as she noticed mine, and told me how her husband handcrafted an ID card case for their daughter in college. He used a punch and tediously stitched the edges with a needle and thread. The final product won the girl’s peers jealously, and one even begged to trade her new Coach bag for the simple hand-sewn sleeve, but the proud daughter treasures it too much to trade.
“Where are you from?” I asked today, feeling about a year behind in my question. “Poland,” she smiled, in that delicious accent. I told her my sister had been there on a choir tour. I talked about the rich history and beautiful architecture. This woman is far from a stale lady lost behind outdated library spectacles; she is my friend.
I placed my hand on hers,
“Remind me of your name.” I’m terrible with details sometimes.
“B” she smiled, “B like books.”
“Is it short for something?”
“Yes, but no one can say it,” she hesitated. “‘Beata.’” she said, with an odd little twist in her throat. “It means blessed.” I repeated the name, and her jaw dropped.
“It’s been so long since I heard someone say it! Even my husband cannot. How can you…” Her voice trailed into the hushed world of yellowing pages.
“Maybe since I speak Spanish? It sounds like the name Berta, with the R rolled properly…” I said as I gathered my things. “Beata, have a happy birthday!”
She caught her breath and shook her head. “Just hearing you say my name was the best birthday present.”
I still feel a lump in my throat, hours later. It was just a name. A word. But it was HER name. It is who she IS.
We each have a powerful and important story, but it is so easy in this busy, rushed world to miss connecting deeply.
For years, this lady hasn’t heard her given name spoken, because most American tongues can’t roll it. She has gone by an initial, to make it easy for everyone.
My name means creative. Even though my mother had no idea what I would be like when I grew up, it was sown deeply in there, this joy in creation. To paint, to write, to inspire. My middle name is Nell, after my maternal grandmother, who I never got to meet. But I hear she was bubbly and outgoing, and I suppose I inherited a good dose of my personality from her.
My dear librarian friend has this lovely name meaning “Blessed,” yet all these years she’s been called an initial, because of a difficult pronunciation. Today, when I called her who she really is, something jumped to life in her eyes. Her entire face glowed.
There is a whole world around us, filled with people with stories.
With unspoken names.
I have learned to make an effort to chat with cashiers and people helping me when I am in town. Name tags help me get past the cold job and to the person behind the uniform. It is the key to the same word their loving mother so carefully chose. It strips away the sterility of a job and recognizes them as a unique person.
“How are you today, Billy?” I’ll ask the boy bagging my milk at the store. He looks up in shock and quickly scans my face. While he doesn’t recognize me, I’m there, smiling, with his first name as comfortable as my worn shoes.
“Thank you so much, Lucy,” I’ll tell the girl who helped me over the phone with a customer service question. When waiting as the cashier scans my items, I’ll often say, “Tell me about your tattoo,” since there is always a back story. The lady at Goodwill has a matching tattoo with her son’s girlfriend who was in a really difficult home situation. The tattoos symbolize my friend’s tender heart, and love for others.
I would never have known if I hadn’t asked for the back story.
Take a moment to look at the world around us,
filled with people with unspoken names.
Perhaps it is their given name. Maybe it is the name God has spoken over them. Maybe they have never heard who they really are created to be. Maybe they are lost in the dark night of struggle, and the daybreak and a new name are just around the corner. You can meet them there, and offer hope.
Today I unintentionally thrilled my friend Blessed’s heart by saying her name.
I still have goosebumps because I stumbled into a moment far bigger than just a friendly conversation. You see, God is calling my name. And I’m pausing.
Maybe the name on His lips more than the name I’ve gone by.
He’s saying my full name.
It makes me wonder, what is your real name?