Sunday, January 11, 2015

What's In A Name?

"What's in a name?
A rose by any other word would smell as sweet ..."
Romeo & Juliet 
William Shakespeare

There's a gentleman at my corner grocery store. He's always friendly and helpful. When I look like I need help, he asks what I'm searching for. If I can't find something I need, I can ask him. He doesn't simply tell me where it  is. No. He goes beyond that. He actually takes me to the item and makes sure I have what I need before he walks away.

He's always pleasant, in that corner grocery store manner of days gone by. In fact, everyone who works at the store is like that. I can honestly say that's one of my reasons for shopping there as often as I do. In a few simple moments, I connect with another human being.

In those few simple moments, I feel a little lighter. I smile a little brighter. 

Doesn't matter whether I'm just stopping in for milk or filling my cart, there is a kindness and a joy to this store and the people who work there. For a while though, he knew my name and always made that personal remark when I was shopping -- easier to do since they run my credit card and see it -- but (shamefully I admit) I didn't know his name. So, I asked Matt -- the owner. And then I gently suggested that he consider Name Tags.

Do you have a "local" grocery store? Or a "local" market or shop? There is truly nothing like the welcoming feeling of a place where everybody knows your name. And it's nice to give that back by using the name of that person helping or serving you. I always try to take that time to look at a name tag and thank people who help me by name. I don't dismiss others based on their jobs .... A person's a person no matter how small (so sayest Horton.) And he's right. 

The gentleman at my corner store is Jim. He waves when I drive by and always takes the time to ask about me and my family. And, now that I know his name, it's even easier to say hello. One day in the busy month of December, I wasn't feeling well and had stopped for juice and soup. Jim carried my groceries to the car. The next time I shopped, he asked me if I was feeling better. 

Why is that important? I guess to me it makes me feel good when people show I matter to them. And by using their name and making eye contact, it shows that I value not only the service they are providing but them as individuals. I feel it is important to take the time to pay attention to the people who I come into contact with no matter their "title."  Showing interest offers validation. It honors and pays respect to the people who surround us, work with us or serve us on a regular basis. A title or paycheck doesn't make one person more significant than other. We're all connected. We rely on each other. And, we need to value each other.
I have a friend who gets that ... uses my name in emails or in a text or face to face. It feels good. To hear my name or see it in writing. It means in that moment, he was thinking about me solely. That I wasn't a casual correspondence. At that time, we were connected. It means something even when we're not face to face.

So many people are in such a hurry. They walk down the street searching through their cell phone. They don't make eye contact with the people they see or meet regularly. They don't have time to say genuine words to the Barista making their coffee or the attendant ringing up their groceries. They appreciate the yoga instructor that guides them thru class but they don't take time to say thank you or ask them about their day. 

A waiter or waitress -- or flight attendant for that matter -- usually introduces him or herself when arriving to serve. But how many of us truly pay attention to their name? How many of us use it or make casual conversation with that server we find so easy to dismiss out of mind? 

My elementary school janitor's name was Mr. Claypool. I remember him well. I remember saying hello to him every day. His job was certainly not an easy one. How many janitors do you know? Have you ever stopped to say hello? 

The grocery store clerks vary depending on where I shop. But most wear name tags that are easy to see, if I pull my head from my cell phone or lists long enough to say hello when they ring up my groceries.  I tend to have enough groceries that we strike up a little casual conversation. I like to think they offer me something and I do that in return as they stand behind that register on their feet all day. 

The Barista asks my name when preparing my drink of choice. Isn't it a nice gesture to thank them using theirs before moving along to wait for the non-fat, grande cinnamon dolce latte with whip? Heck, if they are going to the trouble to make my order to such lengthy specifications, a simple thank you and use of their name is the least I can offer.

It's all about looking up. Looking around. Looking outside of yourself and your own drama. Connecting. 

Used to be a local bar named Rumors. As a young single on a limited income, I would hang out there with my friends. That bar was as close to a "Cheers" as any bar I have ever known. I knew the bartender by name. I knew the wait-staff. I've found a few other bars like that around. Those are the ones I choose to go because I feel welcome. I feel like they are glad I'm there.  

When I see Jim at the corner store, we talk. He's a neat guy. I don't know a ton about him but he's good people. He makes shopping there just a little more enjoyable.  I'm not saying we have to be best friends with "the world," but eye contact, a smile and use of a person's name go a long way these days.

What's in a name? Identity. Individuality. Personality. I like it when people use mine and I bet you like to hear your own. It offers you a momentary flicker of connection. That's more than some people ever achieve. 

What's in a name? Quite a lot. We all have one. Making a genuine effort to use them ... to create a connection with someone you don't truly know but see all the time ... well, that's pretty sweet. 
                                                                                          -- Jenni