I am glad so many people have learned that the young boy who drowned trying to escape Syria was named Aylan Kurdi. Names are important.
I think about the value of being known by name nearly every day. It matters to me when someone remembers my name and even more when they learn how to spell it. Erinn with two n’s is rare. When someone comes to The Dale the first thing we try to do is learn their name. One of my friends Michael talks about how he knew The Dale was a safe space away from the street when we took him by surprise and called him by name.
We all have an innate need to be known. Being known goes deeper than simply remembering one’s name though. We might be able to identify a celebrity by name, but know nothing about them as a person. This is where it gets messy. Authentic relationships are built when we are willing to reveal ourselves. Underneath our exteriors (whatever that exterior might look like) are complex emotions, failures and longings that we fear will be too much for anyone else to handle. That which we want most can also be the most terrifying.
This fear can flow into the way we take care of one another. Though we were designed to live in community we often don’t. Or we do, just in homogenous groups that we design to feel comfortable and very safe. We are called though to feed those who are hungry, clothe those who are naked, visit those who are sick and imprisoned and show hospitality to those in need. Remember too that each of us will take turns being the one who requires help.
I am convinced that if people consistently opened their doors to people like Aylan or my friend Michael, our world would look very different. A radical shift in our culture is necessary for this to happen. Maybe the start is learning one another’s names.