“Romper Room” was a television show for preschoolers that ran from 1953 to 1994, and I loved it! My mother couldn’t drag me away from the black-and-white TV with the rabbit ears that had to be fiddled with to get a clearer image on the screen. I enjoyed the singing, the dancing and the time of show and tell. What I looked forward to the most, though, was when the host would end our time together by holding up a magic mirror so that she could “see” us. And so, with the mirror in her hand, she would begin naming the children: “I see Tommy and Maria and Robert and Jamel. I see Frances and Jose.” I waited with bated breath in front of the TV to hear my name. Most times my name wasn’t mentioned, and I would turn off the TV feeling sad and lonely. But, boy, do I remember the time when I heard, “I see Donna.” Even now, when I transport myself back to 5-year-old Donna, I feel the excitement of being “seen.” We all want that, don’t we? Not only to be seen, but as Howard Thurman points out, to be understood. Many didn’t see John the Baptist for who he really was — the one sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus. Many didn’t see John for who he was because of how he presented himself in wearing strange clothing and eating weird food. Yet he was the one sent by God to pave our way. I wonder how many people — ordinary angels — God had sent to me that I have not seen at all because they weren’t what I was expecting. I wish we had a magic mirror in our lives, one that would allow our cynical, judgmental eyes to really see God’s children for who they are — beautiful — and what they offer the world. Imagine a magic mirror in which you see and call by name the homeless person discarded by society. Imagine calling by name the person who you were brought up to hate. Imagine the smile you would receive when seeing — and calling by name — the person whose body is twisted in a wheelchair. Imagine the joy on the face of a woman with a speech impediment who you have called by name and asked to read Scripture on Christmas Eve. Imagine what the world would be like if we walked around with such a mirror that allowed us to see and name one another.
God, years ago your Son stood on the lakeshore and, smiling, he called out the names of those fishing, inviting them to follow him. There is such power in hearing you speak my name, to know that I am known by you, seen by you, gives me courage to do the same — to call by name the stranger, the outcast, the hurting, the wounded. In Jesus’ name I pray. Amen.
While shopping in stores this holiday season might be curtailed by the COVID-19 virus, when you are in store, make it a point to thank the cashier by name. Or when helping someone who is a stranger, remember to always start by asking their name. Sounds simple, but it is something we often forget to do.