Nick and I walked through the parking lot toward the sanctuary. A man approached and got close enough for me to recognize him. He called out, “Hey, y’all” as he walked past. “Hey, A,” I said.
Our backs were toward him as we continued to walk, but I heard his footsteps stop. “Hey,” he called. I turned around. “You know my name!” he exclaimed.
“I do,” I said.
“You know my name. Have a good night!”
I sprayed the cleaner on the table. The smell was intense. The chairs were pulled away from the table so that people could sweep underneath it, but one was blocking the path of the man walking towards me. I pushed it in and said, “Hey, S. How’s it going?”
“You know my name?”
“I know your name.”
“Can I show you something?”
S led me to the large rope tapestry hanging in the corner. There were purple strips of fabric and fabric markers so that people could write quotes or messages for Lent and weave them through the rope.
“That one. The one up top? I made that one,” S said.
“Help me Jesus to do things?” I asked.
“That one. I’m proud of that one. You know that song? Help me Jesus?” S questioned.
“Did you sing that at church last week?”
“You heard me sing?” he asked.
“I heard you sing.”
The Scripture was Matthew 4:1-11. Pastor Mark asked if anyone had thoughts. A hand went up behind me, and the man stood. Pastor Mark said, “Yeah, G. You have something?”
G’s mouth opened. He paused and closed his mouth briefly. Slowly he said, “Thanks for remembering my name, brother.”
There is a saying, “Tigers die and leave their skins. People die and leave their names.” Maybe it’s actually an old Japanese proverb or maybe it’s a quote from the wall of a dirty bathroom stall. Either way, its power is not lost on me. A name gives us an identity. A name gives us dignity. At the Homeless Persons’ Memorial Service each year, we mourn people by name. It’s not enough to say that five or thirteen or twenty-two homeless people died on the streets in our town this year. Homeless is an adjective. Homeless isn’t a name.
In the NeverEnding Story, the only way Bastian can save Fantasia is by giving the Childlike Empress a new name and calling it out. “Call my name! Bastian, please! Save us!”
Perhaps it is that easy. Perhaps calling the name of the person you’ve walked quickly past, averted your eyes from, or otherwise stripped of dignity is the first step that will save us all.