One day last summer, my daughter informed me that the plates on my car were expired. Certain she was wrong, I went outside to confirm her error, but to my surprise, she was right. Frustrated this had happened, but grateful I hadn’t been caught, I immediately went online to resolve the issue only to learn that I would have to appear at the DMV in person. To be clear, I dislike the DMV as much as anyone, and the list of things I find irritating would fill an entire page. At the top of that page would be their tendency to dehumanize (what should be) a human experience, reducing it to a numerical transaction. I’m a person who drives. The person behind the glass is also a person who presumably drives. We are both people, in the same place, with something in common to talk about. We have all the essential elements of a human exchange and yet a visit to the DMV usually feels anything but human.
The beginning of the dehumanization is the assignment of “the number.” In exchange for the most personal of things (my name and the date I came into the world), I am given something impersonal, a number. If you want to feel the difference this makes, pay attention the next time you’re in Starbucks. Like the DMV, Starbucks is a busy place where we spend more money than we’d like for a product most consider essential. But when you order a beverage at Starbucks, they don’t assign you a number. They ask for your name. And when your beverage is ready, they call you…by name.
November is National Adoption Month and my Facebook feed is filled with stories of those whose lives have been touched by adoption. Last night, I watched a short video made to commemorate the occasion that featured a young girl describing her experience of being adopted. When asked what was most special to her about her new family, she responded with a smile, “I have a name.” She didn’t talk about having her own room, a pet, or new siblings. At the top of her list was “identity” – the opportunity to be known.
Whether at Starbucks, the DMV, or elsewhere, we respond best when we are called by name, because the desire to be known is part of our humanity – it’s how God made us. In this month of celebrating adoption, it’s worth remembering that we’re all adopted into the family of God. We were born into sin, but God adopted us through Christ’s sacrifice into His family. In Isaiah, He reminds us, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by your name; you are Mine.” When we need the attention of our Father, we don’t have to take a number. We can call Him by name – that’s how He calls us. May we hear that call anew this week, amen!
Jim R. Callis
Head of School