She was standing there, quietly sobbing when I walked past her. I attempted to ignore that uncomfortable, gnawing, helpless feeling I get when I pass someone holding a “Hungry, please help” sign. I had excuses. After all, I was running late to a meeting and about to miss my train. Yet, God tapped me on the shoulder and I knew I had to go back.
I walked up to the girl, a weary teenager.
“My name is Bonnie, what’s yours?”
“Shameka…I’d almost forgotten that I had a name.”
I let this sink in and as my heart grieved over this last statement, her face transformed and the tears stopped. Something as simple as asking her name and shaking her hand reminded her of her dignity and humanity.
She was just like me. We had different backgrounds and different experiences, but we both had the same need, to be acknowledged and seen as a person, someone worthy of having a name.
That simple question, “What’s your name?”, led to an unexpected friendship that summer, one that changed us both.
It feels easier sometimes to look away or to pretend to be busy when we see someone out holding a sign on the street. But the simple act of asking someone’s name and shaking their hand can make a world of difference.