What having a unique first name has taught me

As names go, I think I have a pretty cool one. My name is Michal, and I love it. I’ve grown used to seeing the ‘deer in the headlights’ look from baristas at Starbucks and nurses at the doctor’s office when they get to tackle pronouncing it, but it’s never bothered me. Many times an especially funny mispronunciation or innocent blunder opens up fun conversations with people, and those conversations have taught me something important about human connection.

Nine times out of ten, when I meet someone new, or I get asked for my name, the reaction is a spontaneous outburst like “Wow! I love that!” or “Wait, Michal? That’s so cool, where does that come from?” I’ve even had a first date run an etymological search on the background of my name before showing up at dinner so that he could make a point to say how much he liked it.

Having a unique name has proved useful many a time in opening up these kinds of conversations with people, most of whom I would never have talked to otherwise. Those fun, spontaneous exchanges always make me happy and brighten my day, which has helped me realize how much people want to connect with others, and how little we actually do.

We live in a culture and time where it’s easy to be isolated from other people. It is entirely possible to go about your day never having to speak to a person you don’t live or work with. Yet it takes so little to improve the lives of the people around us! I have had days that were completely turned around by the kind, unexpected words of a stranger. When we reach out to each other and make a personal connection, people feel more appreciated, and less alone.

So, in a way, my name has taught me how meaningful it is to make a conscious effort to give small kindnesses to people. I try to live by the rule now, that if I admire something about someone, or if I have a compliment to give, I tell them! It doesn’t have to be big; it can be admiring something simple, like someone’s name.

Because even the smallest acts of goodwill are an investment, in the happiness of others, in the relational breadth and capacity of your own life, and in the camaraderie of the human connection between all of us.


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(Image via iStock)