My name is… What is your name?

Whenever someone new comes into ToastLoveCoffee, I try to go over, and introduce myself and start a conversation. It usually starts with, “Hi! Welcome, my name is Anna. What’s your name?” and we take it from there.

Such a simple, yet powerful statement and question. Many of the guests we welcome go through most days as a reference or identity number; form filling, giving interviews, applying for jobs, waiting for benefits, housing, school admissions, asylum.

In the process, a little bit of dignity is lost as their name doesn’t seem to matter. The poem below hopefully explains why I start the conversation as I do. It was written by Zelda Schneurson Mishkovsky in 1974.

Each of Us Has a Name

Each of us has a name
given by God
and given by our parents
Each of us has a name
given us by our stature and our smile
and given by what we wear
Each of us has a name
given by the mountains
and given by our walls
Each of us has a name
given by the stars
and given by our neighbours
Each of us has a name
given by our sins
and given by our longing
Each of us has a name
given by our enemies
and given by our love
Each of us has a name
given by our celebrations
and given by our work
Each of us has a name
given by the seasons
and given by our blindness
Each of us has a name
given by the sea
and given by
our death.

[Trans. Marcia Falk, The Spectacular Difference, pp.141-143]

published by Anna Dyson
Founder and Director of ToastLoveCoffee. CEO of Dyson family, Roundhay (Leeds) branch which involves a huge array of skills impossible to imagine or articulate! Formerly, Jewish educator and community professional.
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