In the fall of 2001, I began my junior year of college at Appalachian Bible College. My wife Robyn and I had gotten married just a few months earlier, and for financial reasons made the move from Indiana to West Virginia to continue our educational pursuits. To be completely honest, it was an extremely difficult move for us. We were newlyweds with little money, no job prospects, and no friends or family in the community. We made a few friends of fellow married students in the weeks leading up to the start of the school year, but for the most part we were alone and unknown.
During the first week of classes, all of the incoming students gathered together in the main auditorium for a welcome session. We sang a few songs, participated in some forced socialization, and listened as several students and faculty members outlined the many opportunities for connection at ABC. I was less than impressed and was ready to go home, but alas, there was one more item of business on the agenda. We would have a presidential welcome from the school’s president, Dr. Anderson. Dr. A, as he was called, stood up and welcomed us all and spoke momentarily about how grateful he was that we had decided to further our education at ABC, not simply as a student body, but as individuals. He said that he made it a point to know the name of every student on campus and that he wanted to know our names. I thought to myself, “There is NO WAY you are going to remember the names of everyone in this room, let alone the entire school.” He proceeded to have us all stand up and went around the room to hear each name. After we said our name he repeated it and went on to the next student. After he finished, he went around the room and addressed each of us by name! It was incredible, but I was still skeptical. It was one thing to remember our names in the moment, but could he identify us when we were out and about on campus.
There is something encouraging about being known by another.
About a week went by, and I completely forgot about the experience during our presidential welcome. Robyn and I were out and about running errands in town somewhere, I don’t remember where, but I’d be willing to bet it was Walmart. We turned the corner of an aisle and I heard a voice call out, “Hello Myers family! How are Jeremy and Robyn doing today?” I looked up, and there ahead of us in the aisle was Dr. A. I was beyond impressed and a little more than surprised at being called by name out in the community. It was such a little thing, but it meant more to me than I can even say. There is something encouraging about being known by another. In that moment, in that place so far from home, a friendly greeting and being acknowledged by name lifted my spirit and blessed my soul.
It is unreasonable to expect that all of us will remember the names of everyone we ever meet. That is a very special gift that only few people have. It isn’t all that unreasonable, however, to expect that we offer a friendly greeting to those we see in the community. And, not just those we consider close friends and family, but those who might need a friend. This will require us to actually lift our eyes from our phones for a moment. It will require us to actually see others when they cross our paths. And, it will require us to extend at least a minimal amount of time and effort to show a little love to another.
I think only makes sense that what matters to Jesus should matter to us.
This is one of the things I love about the stories of Jesus in the gospel. He was always on the lookout for someone in need of a friend, in need of a little compassion. Jesus regularly broke away from the expected path and called out to others by name. He clearly showed them that they mattered to Him. I believe Jesus knows each of us by name, the good, the bad, and the other. If he knows us by name, then we, each of us, matter to Jesus. I think only makes sense that what matters to Jesus should matter to us. So, next time I see you out and about or you see me, let’s make an effort to say hello, learn each other’s names, and show a little love.