I can still plainly hear my voice on that first day of kindergarten at District #32 just down the gravel road from our farm in rural South Dakota. My teacher, Mrs. Dangel, was reading the roll call, “Rebecca?” to see if I was present. (There were only five of us seated around a tiny table with tiny chairs next to her desk.) I quickly replied with great conviction, “My name is BECKY, not Rebecca.”
Yes, as a five year old I wasn’t thrilled with the name Rebecca. It sounded kind of old and formal. No doubt my mother wanted something that sounded good with my two big sisters’ names. Patricia, Cynthia, Rebecca, do you note “a” pattern? Or when the shortened names were used . . .Patty, Cindy, Becky. Very sweet and very 1959.
I recall in my childhood years discovering a pamphlet of “Baby Names” printed by the Gerber company. I felt like mystery writer Nancy Drew as I unearthed this document from a box in my bedroom closet. There, next to six or eight baby girl names, were little ink marks that my mother had made. Rebecca was marked, but so was Melissa. Melissa. Was there ever a more beautiful name than Melissa, my seven-year-old self thought? I spent years imagining what life would have been like had I been named Melissa. However, when it was time to be called to supper or asked to play on the swings by Patty, Cindy, or my brother, Paul, I responded to the sound of “Becky” in a jiffy. Fast forwarding, apart from a small unsuccessful stint of trying to be Rebecca in my early nursing career, I have come to love hearing my name “Becky.”
So my interest in names and the power of hearing them (and a quick web search) led me to this small but intriguing study, “Brain Activation When Hearing One’s Own and Others’ Names”. Read about it here. Basically, scientists put headphones on four guys, the guys were put in an MRI, and the guys’ names were spoken. Specifically, (and this is why I love the description of detailed methodology in scientific articles) the names read were Dan, Jay, Mike, and Saul. They were instructed to have their eyes closed and they were instructed not to move. I was impressed to read that none of them moved more than 1.5 mm during the MRI. Who can do that? These guys were good. So what happened when they heard their names spoken? The scientists reported:
“There is unique brain activation specific to one’s own name in relation to the names of others.”
Dan, Jay, Mike, and Saul’s brains all responded in the same way but only when their own name was called. The part of their brain that regulates emotional responses to specific events lit up on the MRI as did the area for auditory processing and understanding the facial expressions of others. Wow! What do you think of that, _____________(insert name here)? And here’s my favorite finding of the study:
A questionnaire given following the scanning revealed that the subjects found the study interesting and that the sounds of their names elicited responses of ‘that’s me.’
Our creator God is an amazing electrician. God has wired us in such a way that we hear the calling of our name and respond back with the declaration of “that’s me.”
My kids will tell you that one of the things they heard me say often in my “mom voice” when they were leaving for a school trip or traveling away for an event with friends was, “Remember who you are and whose you are.” It gets back to that child of God role I wrote about in my first post. I’m sure I’ll be writing more about being a child of God in the future, but for now, just being able to recognize each day “that’s me” is a sufficient and powerful start.
How will you respond to today when you hear your name called?
Who needs to hear their name called today? You? Your spouse? Your neighbor?
Whose world can you light up by calling their name?
“I have called you by name, you are mine.”Isaiah 43:1