Yesterday I talked about two things I learned from Dr. Vincent Harding. Here is the third thing that he said that really made me think:
Dr. Harding had a brief aside about our names. He asked each person who spoke to tell their full name, the name of their mother's mother and where they were from. And he said that so much of the beautiful diversity within this country is represented by the names we carry. Why are we afraid to ask one another how to pronounce our names? In learning how to say someone's name we are actualizing part of their humanity, and sharing part of our own. In shortening or mispronouncing someone's name, we are discrediting part of that person's being.
Given that I go by my initials and I also went through a name change this year, that concept of our names being a reflection of our humanity really struck home. My name is a combination of one that was given and one that I chose. I go by my initials not only because it is what my Mom decided I should be called but also because it is frustrating to hear people mispronounce my full name, and Angelina Jolie jokes can be demeaning. I always had some discomfort with my last name, and the transition to my new last name has been remarkably easy - it has been 6 months and it is already very rare for me to think of myself with my maiden name. My married last name feels more home-like than my maiden name. (Also I have always loved writing cursive capital L's :) ) It made me wonder if I have ever caused distress by not giving someone's name the respect it deserved.
Similar to the reminder about listening, the aside about our names has given me renewed impetus to make sure that my actions honor those around me. I have always followed a combination motto of 'do no harm' and 'make the world a better place' but I think I need to add to that something about respecting the humanity of all I meet.
Dr. Harding did create in me a 'wonderful disturbance' and I am enjoying processing my interactions with him.