My four-year-old friend Elizabeth and I recently came to a conclusion. “Bizzle” (as I call her) and I were reading through the classic Dr. Seuss tale of the critter who had never tried green eggs and ham much to the dismay of a much smaller “Sam-I-Am.” We noticed that while “Sam-I-Am” was identified on most every page, the green egg hating, furry thing had no name. We paused and I asked, “Hey, what is this guy’s name?” Eliza-Bizzle just shrugged. The thought had never crossed her mind. I suggested we call him “Doug” and we continued reading.
I wonder how many people walk namelessly in and out of our lives every day? They take our food orders, collect our tolls and deliver our pizzas. We might give them pseudo names based on what they do … toll guy, pizza man and paper boy … but we rarely think of them as people with names.
I remember a woman who walked all over our town talking to herself. She would have animated conversations with invisible people. Everyone knew her as “Crazy Mary.” Then there’s “Stinky Pete.” He wears a wool hat all summer and rides an old bike loaded down with returnable bottles and cans he has dug out of trash barrels. “Fast Eddy” looks to be about 85. He walks up and down the same street all day long at a snail’s pace wearing a woman’s leather coat. At least he used to walk. I haven’t seen Fast Eddy in quite some time.
Like our “Doug” none of these people have names known to me. They are just part of my daily story; part of the supporting cast.
Last week I took an afternoon and headed for our local park with a few Arby’s roast beef sandwiches in a sack. My goal was simple. I wanted to find a park bench, share some lunch and hear the story of one of the homeless guys who sleep on the grass. I sat next to a weathered man who was doing his best to get every last bit of taste out of his cigarette. The ash was down to the filter.
He didn’t want a sandwich at first so I just asked him where he was from. We talked about the weather. He complained about the seagulls and we laughed a little. As I crumpled up my wrapper and got ready to leave, I extended my hand and said, “My name’s Scott, what’s your name?” He looked puzzled for a second and then shook my hand with, “I’m Roger.” I told him I had enjoyed talking with him and then asked, “You sure you don’t want one of these sandwiches, Roger? I don’t need the extra calories.” He nodded and laughed and told me I was definitely a “big boy” and then took a sandwich.
Elizabeth and I now routinely notice “Doug” when we read Green Eggs and Ham. And now I find myself looking for Roger each time I drive by Deering Oaks Park. Names are important. That’s why Jesus calls us by name.
He calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. John 10:3