Adventures in Nametagging: I went out for lunch yesterday but didn’t think to put my nametag on. When it came time for our afternoon Starbucks run, I brought a nametag along but kept it in my wallet. After all, I would feel silly wearing it at work, or just walking with my friends, but I could slap it on so that the baristas wouldn’t have to ask my name.
Along the way, a panhandler asked for loose change. I stopped and dug around in my wallet, but didn’t find much change. But I had some dollar bills, so I pulled one out. He, meanwhile, had been avoiding all eye contact with me because of… shame? The American Caste System?
When I put the dollar bill in his hand, he looked at me with surprise. I smiled, and asked, “What’s your name?” “James,” he replied. “James, I’m Jon. Oh wait, let me put on my nametag.” HELLO my name is Jon goes on my shirt, and I reached out to shake his hand.
(Digression: One of the things Kay’s dad did as a missionary in Japan was prison ministry. And one of the things he insisted on doing was to shake hands with the prisoners. The guards didn’t like this — not so much because of security concerns, but because he was a sensei, a teacher, and prisoners were sub-human. …And that’s precisely why he insisted on doing it, to validate their humanity.)
James and I looked each other in the eye and shook hands, and smiled. Again, I felt that I was giving physical expression to the subversive, radical kingdom of God, defying the evil world order.
Did this have anything to do with the nametag? Maybe not. But today, I am wearing my nametag at work, putting up with my co-workers’ snide comments, remembering a man named James.