My Outlook

Please, anybody else's name but mine

I don't like wearing name tags. They're often way too big, or the adhesive isn't great and the ends curl up, or they are emblazoned with the most unnecessary words imaginable…My Name Is. Seriously, if it's a name tag doesn't it go without saying the name on it belongs to the person wearing the tag? Nonetheless I fully recognize that tags can help identify individuals within a larger group we have not met before. That can be a beneficial thing, as long as the people who are required to fill them out themselves have decent penmanship. Otherwise, why bother. The prolonged stares trying to figure out what someone has written can lead to rather awkward moments.

            But I attended two events this summer where I was handed a name tag I was proud to wear. One was a church event in Indiana where the (overly large) tags served not only as identification but also as entrance to the convention and the meals. Who wants to argue with that process? Since the tags also included where we were from it served as a conversation starter many times as the largely American group seemed quite excited to talk about Canada.

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            The other event was a family reunion where descendants of the nine siblings in my grandfather's family came together to reconnect with or perhaps meet first, second and third cousins. Upon entering the Community Hall where the reunion was held, we all filled out name tags that identified which branch of the family we belonged to. It made associations very easy since a quick glance enabled us to put people on the right branch, even if we were meeting them for the first time.

            Listening to the stories told by great aunts and uncles, or reading the histories of great and great-great grandparents were in turn heartwarming and humorous; emotional and inspirational. The line of people from which I come endured the kind of hardships and celebrated the types of successes their contemporaries did. The same can be said of each subsequent generation. Much in life wasn't easy for those that came before, and much of life isn't easy for those that followed. But there are so many reasons to be thankful, and amidst the reminiscing was an awareness that the names on those tags intertwined each of us in a pretty special heritage of faith and family

            I find it interesting that we are reluctant to wear name tags bearing our own names yet we'll parade around wearing tags with someone else's. Emblazoned on t-shirts, handbags, running shoes, phone cases, jeans and hats are names belonging to someone else. People we don't know. Designers and companies charging us premium prices for the privilege, no less. Yet we continue to buy things with their name on it. Why? Perhaps to demonstrate allegiance to a particular brand we like, or to be one of the crowd, or maybe, when it comes to some of the higher end items, to demonstrate inclusion into an elite group we know many cannot afford.

            Consider the basic white cotton t-shirt that can sell anywhere from $5 to upwards of $300. Fabric, the manufacturing process and where that manufacturing takes place certainly are important variables but as one consumer analyst reported, when it comes to choosing to wear the one with the name of the designer "you're paying for the prestige on top of the product."

            So we wear other names on our stuff with seeming pride, but our own with a bit of reluctance. How great it would be if we would stop looking for validation in wearing the names of others, and instead find assurance in claiming our own. That's my outlook.

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