Miss USA….What’s in a Name?

Last week I watched the Miss USA pageant.   In an attempt to redeem this atrocity, I’ll defend my decision with the fact that I’d seen a special on 20/20 on Miss Colorado, Blair Griffith.  After being crowned Miss Colorado, she and her mother were evicted from their home and found themselves homeless.  It’s one of those compelling 20/20 stories that I had to watch.  And then that story was so intense, I had to tune into the Miss USA broadcast.   Would the underdog win and save her family from living under a bridge?

Not to ruin the surprise, but no, she didn’t win.  The disturbing moment came for me, though, during the interview portion of the finals.  I started realizing throughout the commentary, that they were referring to the contestants as “California”, “Texas”, “Tennessee” and “Alabama”.  Here’s an example, “California, please join the other contestants.”   Or, “Alabama, you are an elementary education major….how do you hope to inspire youth?”

Here’s a clip….

And it just got to me listening to this go on and on.  Names are so important.  Teaching VBS last week, as with each first day of teaching 4th grade, or meeting summer staff, I felt it a requirement to know their names by the second day, no questions asked.  Just this week, a friend asked on Facebook , “Working on Sunday’s sermon.  Help a sister out and tell her what makes you feel welcome?”  Immediately I knew my answer.  Someone knowing my name and asking about me.

So to watch the painstaking interview process proceed without a single mention of the contestant’s names made the hair stand up on my neck.  They addressed other portions of their identity, their areas of study or career choices, issues connected with their state of origin and hard-hitting questions of morality.  All this, however, without one declaration of name.

Names are intimate.  Names are personal.  They are part of our identity which probably is why they give so much angst to parents when kids are in utero.  For reals, will “Alexander Zachary Gough!!!!!!!!” sound firm enough when he’s in trouble?  Will “Andrew” or “Drew” fit his personality better down the road?

And with all this mulling around in my mind last week, I had a moment of epiphany on Saturday.  {collective cheers….yes, this sleep deprived, fighting a cold mom actually put two and two together and had a deeper thought!}  The day started off on the best note possible….breakfast out with a dear, long term friend.  One whom I’ve traveled with across country on a road trip and then again through Europe.  A friend who even introduced my husband and I.  Over swing dancing.  The irony of that alone….well, no words really express that.

We had amazing breakfast and conversation at Cafe Brazil in Santa Cruz.  I could write and entire post about that.  It ranked as one of the top 10 breakfasts for me of all time.  And yet, even better?  The conversation.  I love the gift of long term friends whom you can jump into “real life” without skipping a beat.

After breakfast, I was headed up to the UC Santa Cruz campus for a class on floral photography through Aperture Academy.  After they set us out at the arboretum, this little guy caught my eye.

I’m still trying to learn the terms and “bells and whistles” on my camera, so this picture doesn’t do the flower justice.  But seriously….look at this him?!?  Talk about intricacy, detail, creativity.  I love the gift of a macro lens.  The eye it allows you to have of something seemingly insignificant.  The instructor let me borrow and play with her lens and I have a lot to learn, but still, found myself amazed that most of my favorite shots were of the simplest, everyday things….pine needles, dandelions and the like.

In the past I might have just passed by this cute, little one….

….but the macro lens led me to see the possibility in the small, seemingly insignificant specimens.

So, these things are swirling around in my head today.  Names, being known, intricate details.  I truly believe we are called to know and be known.  And that is sticky and hard and not always too polished.  When things are difficult, I often get overwhelmed and tired and find it easier to turn on mindless tv and check out.

Saturday, however?  Saturday reminded me that the angst I’d felt over the lack of intimacy, lack of addressing people by their names, is something to be mindful of.  Am I looking through my lens for the details, the unique make-up of those I encounter?  Am I seeking to learn others’ stories and encourage them to live into their unique narrative?  Am I helping my kids figure out who they are, guiding them towards risk, adventure and unknowns, knowing they’ll sink or swim, and that either way, one finds growth through the “fight”?

All too often I’m truly afraid, ashamed or embarrassed to call things in life by their name.  I forget names.  I mix people up, forgetting conversations and clarifications that already happened.  Or worse yet, I don’t want people to see the REAL me or the reality of my parenting struggles or kids’ natural tendencies (yes, that was my three year old son, crawling and screaming down the aisle at my husband’s installation service back in January….trust me, the moment was glorious and really “memorable”).

So the journey continues.  The struggle unfolds.  Names.  Identity.  Details below the surface.  What has God hidden in the everyday, the things that are right in front of us, waiting to be seen in the truest sense?  And more importantly, will we look?  Call those in our midst by their names and enter in?

2 thoughts on “Miss USA….What’s in a Name?

  1. Beautiful. All of it. Thank you for reminding me and encouraging me to look at the specifics… for that’s where beauty – God’s beauty – is most truly found and we see and know ourselves as a part of God’s wonderful creation.

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