Names

When I arrived at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission, I was warmly greeted by a great cluster of children, each of whom hugged me and told me their name. A minute went by. Then came the first question,  “Do you remember my name, auntie?”  As a teacher, I have long known the value of remembering students’ names.  In fact, I make a practice of calling my students by name over and over again during the first few classes, because I believe that if you keep calling people by their names, other people will call them by their names too. They will remember the names, will become friends and the class will be a success. All of which is to say, I desperately wanted to remember each child’s name. But it was so hard. There were so many names to remember, and the names were so unfamiliar and even if I remembered them I didn’t say them right. Rosey and Shane and Gladys were easy to memorize. But then there was Roshni and Khushboo and Jyotika. I spent the first day fumbling around and everywhere I turned was a beautiful child looking at me and saying, “Do you remember my name, auntie?” That first night I thought a long time about the issue, and in the morning I had a plan. I went to breakfast (oatmeal over toast) with my notebook and I asked each child to write down his or her name with some distinguishing characteristic. Immediately they leapt in. Rampal wore a gray hat. Indro had a colorful hat. Ayushi had a puffy watch and Jyotika a scar on her chin. I filled up pages (one of which is in the photo). An orphanage is a communal place, and no one makes a decision on her own. There was much discussion over each person’s distinguishing characteristic. Was her nose unusual? Were eyes a particular color? Did she look like she came from Nepal? After that, every time someone came up to me and asked if I knew her name, I could at least pause and point to the notebook. It bought me some time and good will. By the time I left, I could pick out everyone pretty well, and since I’ve been back I’ve gone over all my pictures and written names on them to be sure not to forget. Just last Sunday, Rosey called me and her first question was, “Do you remember me, Aunty?” Yes Rosey, I remember you and Anthea and April and Raymond and Rampal and…”  

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