|"What’s in a name? that which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet."
Shakespeare in Romeo and Juliet
|But if your name is Rose, and someone calls you Daisy, would you reply? And if that person persists in calling you Daisy, would you not get annoyed?
Shirley is a fellow divorcee and a good friend from church. John is a widower who used to record DVDs of our church services. Our pastor had done a series and Shirley had ordered the DVDs of the whole series. Shirley, not me. When John tried to hand the series to me, I was a bit bewildered, but he insisted that I had ordered them. Then we went to the order sheet on the bulletin board to investigate. Yes, Shirley had ordered them. Not me. Shirley and I may be good friends, but we don't look anything alike. Obviously, the differences have not made an impression on John.
When I first started in my nursing career, it was such an honour to be called "nurse." You would hear someone say, "Oh, the nurse will do that..." and you would beam with pride, knowing they were referring to you. Yes, I am the nurse. You would walk into a patient's room and he would say, "Nurse, could you get me something for pain?" Yes, I am the nurse. But "nurse" is not my name, and while I still consider it an incredible honour to be able to use the title nurse, it's so generic. There are literally millions of us around the world able to use that title. When I made rounds at the beginning of every shift, I always introduced myself, "Hi, I'm Laura and I'm your nurse for tonight..." But patients frequently forgot. Don't get me wrong - I'm not faulting them. When someone is sick and there are zillions of people coming and going, all wearing scrubs or uniforms of some sort, I certainly don't expect the patient to remember everyone's name. But it was always a pleasure when someone actually did. It was recognizing me as an individual. It was validating. I think that was when I first realized how meaningful it is to be called by name.
Worse than the patients were some of the surgeons. Internists were pretty good at knowing us by name. And lots of interns and residents got to know us personally because we saved their bacon on more than one occasion and they spent more time on the floor than the surgeons did. On the other hand, most surgeons think they are next to God. Some even think they are God. Therefore, the name of a lowly nurse is insignificant, even if you've worked with her for years. There was one surgeon, however, who made a point to introduce himself by his first name, to each of the new nurses and learn her first name as well. And that is what he called her henceforth. He was a terrific surgeon on top of that, with a great bedside manner, so we loved him. We felt like he respected us. And he validated us as individuals.
While I was married, my husband seldom called me anything. Now I'm divorced. And I took back my maiden name. Enough said.
Being called by name is validating, affirming, recognizing each of us as individuals. Our name is our identity. It represents who we are. Refusing to learn someone's name, or refusing to use her name when you know it, is insulting. It's reducing that person to just a generic member of the crowd. The message is "who you are as an individual doesn't matter. You don't matter."
One day, I was walking through a dementia cottage at a senior's home, where I had been the home care nurse for some time. I stopped to chat with one of the residents who was having coffee with a couple of the staff. I called her by name, having spoken with her many times previously, chatted briefly, and then went on about my business. As I walked away, I heard her ask the staff, "Who was that anyway?" That just made me laugh because that was just one of my precious demented seniors.
God says, "I have called you by your name. You are mine." Isaiah 43:1 LB. What a wonderful thought to know that the God of the universe knows each one of us by name. And unlike my demented clients, He will never forget who we are. He knows everything about us and affirms His love for us by calling us by name and claims us as His own.