There is a song stuck in my head: “Say My Name” by Destiny’s Child. I know when it got stuck there and why.
It was a cold and wet start to my morning. Gusty winds made it impossible to use an umbrella as the rain rapidly turned to snow. It was a grey day outside but a bright spot for me. It was to be the first day of a new way to help some of my neighbors. I’d done some research and was full of ideas I hoped could make a positive impact. As I drove along slushy side streets, it began to snow harder and 30-mile-per-hour winds whipped the flakes around limiting visibility. I arrived early and was dismayed to discover there was no place to park! I was driving around the lot looking for an empty parking space when the call came not to come in to work as scheduled. A computer crash was putting my plans for a new bigger mission on hold.
The snow was falling faster. I turned up the radio to hear it would not continue at the rapid pace much longer. The radio meteorologist called it a ‘fast-moving clipper’ with big, sloppy flakes. In a short time driving would be easier according to his forecast. So rather than return home, I headed to a coffee shop in my favorite shopping area to wait for the snow to pass.
The coffee shop was packed as many other customers were taking a java break and waiting for the snow to slow. The line was long. Some of the coffee shop’s employees were delayed due to winter’s latest blast. Just one person was working to handle the customers at the counter and the window. I was waiting in the long line when, someone asked me if the folded newspaper on a table was mine. After I said it was not, the person behind me tapped me on my shoulder. I turned around to see a neatly dressed young man with a smile as bright as the sun. He exclaimed, “I thought it was you, but I could not see your face. When I heard your voice I was sure.”
I stammered, “Hello, how are you?” I attempted to place the friendly, engaging face before me. I did not have a clue. I decided to come clean and attempted to frame my inability to place him in our shared quest for caffeine; “Please forgive me, I don’t recall your name. I can’t even remember my own name until I get some coffee,” I sheepishly explained.
The smile grew bigger, “Oh sure you do. Every time you come into my line at the store, you say, Hello, Steve. You have two white dogs who like Purina dog food. I helped take it to your car. I saw them in their back-seat dog house. You remember me.”
And he was right. Now, I did remember him. I recalled he found amusement in my dog’s frantic barking as he placed groceries beside their car-crate in the back seat. Believe me, very few people find the charm in their expressive nature right away. No, I had not recalled his name; but I did not forget his delight and wonder in how such small dogs could produce major vocal eruptions.
I always try to use people’s names when I see them on uniforms, tags or receipts. It is a practice I learned in my high-school and college retail jobs. When checking out customers I would use their names from checks or credit cards as I thanked them for their business and asked them to come again. So without his name tag on, I did not remember Steve’s name. But I recalled his enthusiasm for bagging groceries and his courteous regard for my pets.
I told him I did remember him loading the dog food into the car. Nodding, he replied, “I have a good memory. I like your dogs and I like it when you say hello.”
I asked Steve how long he had worked at the neighborhood supermarket. I learned he began at Schnucks Markets through Paraquad, a St. Louis nonprofit that assists disabled individuals to live independently.
It was finally my turn at the counter and I ordered my coffee and hot chocolate for Steven. He took his cup to go as he walked next door to work at Schnucks. I sat down to drink my coffee and waited for the weather to clear.
It wasn’t just the coffee or the clearing skies improving my mood. I was happy to connect with Steve and be reminded of the power of a person’s name. A name used correctly can convey respect and appreciation. The moment we hear our name our ears perk up. It doesn’t take extra time to make an effort to recognize the other person as an individual. Such a simple part of social interaction; greeting someone with their name. Make an impression: say their name.