She was 18 years old. In jail for the first time and terror covered her face. As she tried to release words through the tears, she told me she was in jail for failure to identify. Most people I encountered with this charge were felons running from the law. This young girl was the furthest thing from it. As I listened to her story through the tears, she explained that her given name is “Infant,” but embarrassed to admit that is her name, she has always called herself Ashley. When the officer asked what her name was, she told him the name she told everyone. In a state of confusion and panic, she didn’t think about the name she had tried to forget the past 18 years, she thought about the only name people knew her by, and saying that name landed her in jail.
What you name a child is so important. People spend so much time and energy thinking about and sometimes praying over what they will name their child. Growing up with 3 sisters in my home, we definitely played the “I’m not going to tell you what I want to name my children because you might steal my name,” game. SPOILER ALERT to the men reading this blog… as women, we already have the names of our children picked out before you ever meet us. We’ve spent hours thinking of a first name and middle name that go together, when we do meet you, we partner the name with your last name to see if it sounds okay.
While exchanging funny stories about horrible children’s names, I once had a friend tell me of the banned names list in New Zealand. A 9 year old girl, too embarrassed to tell her friends her real name, often introduced herself as “K.” This poor girl was taken from her parents and placed in the guardianship of the country so that she could stop living with the embarrassment of being called “Talula Does the Hula From Hawaii,” and be given a normal name. (No joke, Google it, you will find countless articles as well as the banned names list for the country).
Two years ago, while at a girlfriends house for movie night, one of the girls suggested we have “the talk.” I have to admit, I didn’t know which “the talk,” she was referring to until she explained. She proceeded to say that as we were all starting to date and enter into relationships, we should talk about our children’s names. She wrapped up the suggestion of having “the talk,” by saying “And no one can steal anyone else’s name!” It was so funny to me, that at 26 years old I was literally going around in a circle sharing the names of imaginary children I would one day be having with my imaginary husband, at a point in my life when I didn’t even have a boyfriend. Crazy huh?
Well today was a special day for me. It is a day that will forever be remembered and always have a piece of my heart. It is the day I named my first child. No, I did not move to Korea because I was secretly with child and didn’t want you to know about it. You see, in Korea, each of the students who attend English Academy (also known as Hagwon) are given an English name. So far, all of my children have come to me with an English name already given to them. Well today, I met two precious little girls who walked into my classroom nameless. I knew I would be getting new students and I anticipated I would soon be assigning a name. So, I walked into the classroom, met the precious nameless girls and together we decided what their names would be.
I know they aren’t my real children. I didn’t carry them in my womb, anticipating what each kick on my stomach told me about their personality as I thought about what their name would be, but I created a special bond with these two girls that cannot be forgotten. I don’t know if the Lord will choose to bless me with children of my own that I will one day spend hours arguing with my husband over what we will call our child. But I do know that I have a duty to love every child I encounter in life just as if they were my own.
I love that in these moments while I don’t have children of my own, I get to pour love, affection, attention, kindness, gentleness, patience, and grace into all of their lives. I get to skype with my beautiful nieces and teach them how to say funny Korean words. I get to make all the silly faces in the world at 3 month old Kaden trying to get him to laugh through the computer just so I can see him with a smile. I get to be a ray of smiling joy to children who continually get yelled at by their parents for not being good enough or trying hard enough. I get to eagerly anticipate moments that I can tell them about Jesus and what He has done for them. And most importantly, I get to wrap my arms around the children at school, knowing that even if they don’t understand a word of English coming out of my mouth, they understand that a hug means I love them and I care for them and I don’t ever want anything bad to happen to them.