What’s in a name?
William Shakespeare is perhaps the most famous person to ask this question in Romeo and Juliet Act 2 Scene 2: “What’s in a name? that which we call a rose. By any other name would smell as sweet”.
But my question is not referring to bridging a gap between disparate families. My question is different but perhaps just as complex.
What value does your name have?
While contemplating this question I started by doing what any self-respecting millennial would do, I asked Google… Much to my amazement, what I thought was a simple search returned results from all over the web. Definitions of names, religious connections to ‘desirable’ names, a Rodney Dangerfield clip, website domain names, ancestry links, and name-referral services all popped up in the results of this search.
I am sure these are all interesting perspectives on the ‘value’ of a name, but I think what I was looking for had even deeper meaning. I feel as though none of these top results key -in on what my initial search intended, which is what is our name worth. Our name meaning the value of our character, the value of our word, the value of who we are as people, not as an employee or as a series of letters that takes a user to a desired domain name. (I mean, the ‘name’ Facebook is worth much more as a domain name than as the name of an actual human being. “At 5’10”, starting shooting guard Facebook Johns!”)
My 8th grade social studies teacher shared his understanding of a name’s value and it has stuck with me ever since. Early in the school year this teacher explained to the class that we should put effort into our assignments. At the top of each assignment we would write our name. Our name has value. The work we turn in has value. To turn in less than our best effort would be a strike against our own name! When we put our name to something, we should put forth our best because who we are as people is reflected by the work we put our name to. Wow.
This concept has stuck with me for over a couple of decades now, and although I may have turned in assignments with some sub-par effort attached I do my best to ensure that who I am as a person has value. Following through on promises is a good way to add value to your name, to your word.
For years I still struggled to quantify what ‘value’ there might be to someone’s name. One day paying for admission to the local zoo presented a glimpse at one way to quantify the value of someone’s character. As we entered the zoo someone in our party blatantly lied about the age of one of our group members. This individual was 16, but was passed through as 3 to receive the free rate. The value of this person’s integrity was just set in my mind. $12 is the value of their word, their trust, their character. If I later asked this person for their honest opinion, would I get it? Or would I get a $12 version? If they promised to show up at 7 pm for an event, would they show up on time?
Now this might be reading too deep into a situation, but it is on the right track. Perhaps this does not quantify the entire value of a person, but it does help quantify the value of someone’s word. At minimum it helps to quantify how much someone might value honesty.
Zoo admissions aside, if I had a long time friend coming to town from another state or another country for a visit and I promised this friend I would meet them I have made a promise, I have given my word. If I renege on a promise does this not de-value my word in the mind of my friend? I would argue this devalues my name a great deal! In life friendship might be one of the most valuable things we can experience. If we do not place value in relationships, they may quickly start to slide away.
And perhaps I am way off in trying to quantify the value of a name. This might just be my science mind trying to put a numerical value where such a value does not belong.
Without a doubt our name carries great meaning and triggers some kind of response when people hear it. If given the list Michael Jordan, Grandma, Bill Gates, and Hitler you likely have a variety of responses. So when people hear your name what comes to mind? Each day we have opportunities to add (or remove) value to our name. Some days are more difficult than others to be consistent and persistent. But with each good deed and each positive choice we can all help add value to one of our most precious possessions; our name. Peace.