Every year I visit a particular city, and each time I stay in the same hotel. There are nicer facilities in the town. In fact, there's one directly across the street. Still, I choose this one place because they know me and make me feel welcomed.
The second year I came to visit, I no sooner walked into the lobby to register, when the clerk looked up from the registration desk, smiled, called me by name, and said "Welcome back!" as though I had been away for no more than a day.
Common courtesy? Yes, it was that. Good business practice? Evidently. It is one of the reasons I return to this hotel each year. But there's even more to having and nurturing this kind of friendly familiarity with others. There's a spiritual dimension.
I began to recognize this fact during a rough period in my life. I had become increasingly disturbed at the thought that God didn't know me. It was even more upsetting when I recalled the experience of Samuel in the Bible. Here was a young boy who, three times, heard the Lord call his name (see I Sam., Chap. 3). So how come I was praying to God for help as earnestly as ever, and yet He didn't call me by name? Could it be that my needs were not all that important to Him, or even worse, that I was a stranger?
One afternoon, when I was still questioning why God didn't call my name, this thought came as an answer: "There's no need to call someone's name when you already have their attention." Much to my delight, I realized that not only had God, divine Mind, answered my question, but by doing so, God had shown me that indeed He knew me intimately. Since He already had my attention, He had spoken to me directly, giving me just what I needed. I wasn't a stranger to Him at all.
So, if God knows and relates to His children that well, even better than any good human father can, then shouldn't His children know and relate to one another a lot better than many of us do? Doesn't our actual relationship as brothers and sisters in God's family make it normal and natural to love and appreciate one another's true nature as directly as we can?
The Christian Science textbook has something to say on this subject. "Spirit names and blesses all," writes Mary Baker Eddy in "Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures." "Without natures particularly defined, objects and subjects would be obscure, and creation would be full of nameless offspring, - wanderers from the parent Mind, strangers in a tangled wilderness" (pg. 507).
With all the rushing around these days, with people zipping past us (or our zipping past them), perhaps there are times when life feels like "a tangled wilderness." Even so, there's no reason to go on feeling or acting as though we're destined to pass each other by as strangers. We aren't meant to be unfamiliar, either to God or to one another. The infinite, all-embracing love of God, reflected by His children, enables us to be more to each other than strangers, and to identify and cherish each other's unique individuality. Couldn't that mean that each one will recognize and remember others' names?
As much as we enjoy being remembered and greeted by name, we should also enjoy our own inherent spiritual ability to remember the names of those whom we've met. What is eternally known and loved by the one and only Mind does not fade from consciousness over time. "Behold, I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands" is God's message in Isaiah (49:16), conveying a sense of the unforgetting affection that is truly ours. Ours because as God's image, we reflect that infinitely loving and all-knowing Mind.
Granted, in the great scheme of things, learning and utilizing someone's name may seem like a small thing. What truly matters is that we care enough to make the effort. Never underestimate the value of a little more goodwill on earth. What better way to show it than by turning a stranger into an acquaintance and a friend?
Fear not: for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name; thou art mine. Isaiah 43:1