what is your name?

song: you by gold panda

read time: 6 minutes

i have never been a waitress. quite honestly, i’d probably be a terrible waitress. infact, the majority of my friends will probably attest to this. the whole carrying more than one plate at a time thing would be my first problem. also, over the years, my handwriting has gotten worse – infact, the guy at the camera store told me himself, “your handwriting is terrible”. so the chances that i would forget people’s orders are extremely high, even if i wrote it down. then there comes refilling drinks — i’m pretty sure, that i’d be that waitress who would accidentally spill ice water or hot coffee all over you on accident. and knowing my luck, it’d probably be on someone’s first date. embarrassing, for both them and me. embarrassing.

so yeah, i’ve never been a waitress. eh, i’ve never been in the service industry — at all — to be frank. i don’t have the patience for it. and — i think it’s an industry where you’d need a little patience here and there. at least, from what i’ve gathered.

a couple years ago, i started getting in the habit of asking for my waiters and waitresses names. i wanted the people who were serving me to feel appreciated, seen, and more than just a server. after all, while they were getting paid for it, they were serving me — they were helping me.

my thought process is this: everyone deserves for their names to be known.


regardless of occupation. regardless of social standings. regardless of what walk of life you are from. we are all human, we are all equal. 

i say this quite often, but i’ll say it again, because it still rings true—  too many of us are rushing through life without slowing down to see the people around us. when in truth, people are the mission. people are why we are here. we are not put on this earth to be served, but to serve.

so, yes, while you may be out to dinner, dropping off your dry cleaning, or grabbing a quick coffee— you still have the ability to serve the people who are around you.

it all starts with asking their name.

about a year ago, shortly after i started being intentional about asking for people’s names, i was at a conference speaker dinner. the room was packed with individuals from all across the country and there were two waiters to cover the whole room. at the beginning of the night, i made a point to get both of their names. each time they would come by the table to refill wine, serve food, or clear off the table — i would thank them and use their name. the evening lasted for hours, and the whole time — both of the waiters had a consistent smile on their face. when they’d come around, i’d make little jokes to give them a laugh. as i mingled around the room, i’d stop by their corner on the edge of the room and ask them how they were doing and how their night was going.

at the end of the night, before we headed home for the evening — i made a point to thank both of them. as i thanked them — i felt the nudge deep down inside to ask them, “what is your dream?” a simple question. one of the waiters answered and told me that he dreamed of opening up his own restaurant. we talked for a bit about how he was going to school right now and serving at night to pay for it. he shared some of the joys, some of the struggles, and i offered encouragement. as we were saying goodbye — i felt that nudge again. this time, i knew i was supposed to ask if i could pray for him. the restaurant was past closing time, my friends were waiting — but i knew i had to follow through. so i asked, hey, do you mind if i pray with you over your dream real quick?” (yes, i am that girl — you’re welcome!) light came into his eyes and he said he’d love it. the prayer was short, nothing fancy, just a beautiful exchange of believing for something to become a reality.

i am not sure what happened after that night for the waiter, but i hope he’s still chasing his dream of opening up a restaurant.

what i realized is this – nothing about that night would have happened if i didn’t ask for him and his co-worker’s name at the beginning of the night. i never would have built a relationship with either of them and had the opportunity to talk to them about their dreams.

maybe they thought i was a crazy blonde, but maybe — just maybe, they needed someone to come alongside of them and tell them that their dream was worth chasing.

this experienced solidified it — i ask for names.

not every encounter ends up like the night in the restaurant, but they all don’t need to. each conversation is unique — and magically finds the path it needs to be on.

i will tell you this though, asking for someone’s name does several things, including these —

  1. it builds relationships — a name is the first step to any relationship.
  2. it clears a path for conversation — who knows what exchange of ideas there will be!
  3. it opens doors for opportunity — you never know who you’re going to meet.
  4. it makes life a little more adventurous — good stories always come from this. trust me.
  5. it makes people feel seen — which ought to be our ultimate goal.

last night, i went to café gratitude — which if you’ve never been, you must go! my friend and i sat at the bar and the first thing we did was ask the bartender what his name was. throughout the duration of the next hour while we feasted on quinoa bowls, juice, and red wine while we chatted back and forth with our bartender. as we were getting ready to leave, jones, our bartender, came by and said “thank you! what moves me is good conversation — thanks for that!”

nothing we did or said was monumental, but it was the small things that mattered— the fact that we took time to ask his name, invest in him, and sporadically converse with him throughout our meal. he wasn’t just a person behind a counter serving us food and drinks, he was jones. once a stranger, now a friend.

i was recently listening to a podcast that said that people experience a sense of unworthiness and shame because they feel as if they are not seen.

we may not be able to individually fix the epidemic of people feeling unworthy in this generation, but perhaps we can each change the life of one person. perhaps it can be in our small daily interactions that this change can happen and a sense of worthiness can reignite in someone’s life.

people are craving to be seen, to be noticed, to be acknowledged. there is evidence of this all around us. if you don’t believe me— just scroll through social media for three minutes. you’ll find a collection of people dying to be known. perhaps their face and biography may never make it to vogue magazine or rolling stones, but regardless — their name deserves to be known. they deserve to be seen.

we often quote ghandi’s words when it comes to issues of social justice, “be the change you want to see in the world.” but his words are true in this context too. if we want to see our world come alive and the people in our lives to be whole-hearted beings — then we, you and i, must begin to see people. not just see them with our eyes, but see them — give them attention, invest in them, and care for them.

it all starts with a name.

our days are infiltrated with people, which means we are surrounded by opportunities to see people. let’s challenge ourselves to slow down and move with the intention of seeing people. perhaps it’s the mailman, the receptionist in the lobby of your building, your waitress, your co-worker who works across the hall, the intern who works at your company, or the little old lady living next door.

get to know their name, then use it.

knowing a name sparks conversation, which then develops a relationship. in time, it will open the door for opportunity to show kindness. yes, knowing a name changes everything.

everyone deserves for their name to be known.