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Do I know your name?

September 18, 2023

Recently we encountered a surgeon who is well known and respected in his field. As we greeted him with a simple “Ni Hao” his face lit up, he focused on us and was delighted that someone spoke his language. Well, I had to disappoint him and tell him we just knew enough Chinese to go the market to ask for a chicken and come home with a fish, but he just loved that we spoke a couple of words and knew his homeland.

That made me think about the power of the name, the power of knowing something about a person that might be unusual. I am currently terrible with names, and I can put it up to age, or forgetfulness, but reality is, that my mind is often preoccupied with other things (nothing to be proud of). The name to a person means so much, it is their identity.

Prisoners in the concentration camps in Germany were given a number, painfully tattooed on their arms, staying with them forever. When we take away the name, we take away the identity. When we don’t know how to pronounce the name right, we say that we don’t care. Even in our current struggle to under-stand pronouns, we need to recognize that, by not knowing them, we take away the identity of the person. It does not matter if I agree or not with all that, what matters, that I acknowledge the person as a human being, with an identity, a name, a unique person.

When I know a name, I say ‘you matter’, you are a unique person, with a unique set of finger prints, and there is no other person on this planet like you.

When I know a name, I value the contributions that person brings to the table.

When I know a name, I see humanity in us, joining together for a greater good.

So the next time I see you, please make sure I know your name!

Maybe I can even say hello in your native language.

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