What’s in a name?

by Shannon McArthur

Her mother and father called her “Paula”. She was “Mom” to Mother and “the old grey mare” to my grandfather but she was “Oma” to me.  I learned early about the magic of imagination, of faeries and brownies, brave Hiawatha and Sleeping Beauty at her knee. I learned later of the power in the magic of imagination.

I remember imagining, dreaming of the things I wanted in my life – long hair, my very own dog, travelling when I was young; I had a clear image in my mind of the wedding ring I would have, and I yearned to be given a name like an Indian, one that meant something like Minihaha, Laughing Waters, Hiawatha’s girlfriend.  That’s a short-list of the things that have come into my life, like magic, and I intend to tell you all those stories, and more, in the time and space we share here. Was it a form of ESP or the power of prayer? I don’t know its’ name; it’s all magic to me!  Today, the name… let me tell you how I got my name.

It was a rough day at work.  I wasn’t feeling well and decided to go home early.  The bus came and I pulled myself on but, as I turned up the aisle, I noticed an atmosphere of lightness, joy and laughter.  This was most unusual so I only went half way back, slid onto a seat just before the back doors.  I had to see what was going on!  As I watched, I saw a woman sitting behind the driver on the bench seat facing many people eager to hear what she said.  She had a deck of cards and offered it spread out for them to pick one; the card was then read aloud and great glee and merriment ensued! I was enchanted and completely taken outside of my own miserable self.  I determined to speak to her to let her know what a difference she had made in my life.  I got up a couple of stops before mine so I would have time and as I approached I noticed a wheelchair folded and tucked away beside her.  I proceeded to say thanks and what joy and a pleasure and… She said, “This is what I do on my good days.  When my body allows, I go out to a mall or ride the bus and talk to people.” I said something about how much I admired her and thanked her and she offered me the fan of cards and said, “Pick a card, any card!” and I did.  As I looked at the card I was overcome, my throat closed; I could not speak.  I handed the card back to her and she read, “Sunshine Sparkling on the Waters” and I heard it – sometimes you just hear things in a certain way, you know? She could have been speaking through a loud-speaker, because all I heard was her voice.  I walked home about a foot off the ground and it didn’t occur to me until later, names are usually given, not taken, and my throat closed so I would hear my name being given to me.  It is very special to me, a touch-stone, a talisman; it is the name my heart hears.

Each of us go through many names in our lives, addressed differently by each different type of person, yet we know who they mean. Even when bullies call us bad names, we know who they mean.  Spirit is like that too and it’s important, I think, that we come to understand that we each have our own identity and relationship to the same entity, whatever name we use.  Understanding and tolerance is important in respectful, meaningful conversation. I am Sunshine Sparkling on the Waters, a spark of our Father upon the waters of our Mother, just like you.

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