“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, before you were born I set you apart; I appointed you as a prophet to the nations.”
I am grateful to my parents for my first name. How many of you could say the same? In biblical tradition giving somebody a name determines their identity, purpose, destiny. Looking at it from a purely human level we may think that a name is given by our parents or other family members, such as grandparents. When you go a bit deeper and look at the lives of people you know better, it is hard to resist an impression that the name they bear, had already been planned for them earlier by God, just like in the quoted excerpt from Book of Jeremiah.
A casual comment made by one of the people serving me the other day in the US inspired me to write this post.
Travelling a lot around the world I often meet people who are embarrassed to try to pronounce my name, Wojciech (diminiutive version: Wojtek ). I have heard several version of its prounanction and spelling. This was particularly frusttrating for my teachers at the university in the US. Each time I was given a chance to say something in class by raising my hand, they would not dare to say my name. This was the case despite my name tag being clearly displayed in front of me in big print. As a side note, I want to add that Americans are especially sensitive to be able to address the other person by their first name. Not being able to do so was doubly frustrating for them.
This name-saying challenge often appears when using different kinds of services, such as gastronomy. At my company which is a large restaurant operator, AmRest (WSE ticker: EAT), we have been for quite some time successfully adapting this American model of first name address when taking orders from our guests. After all most of us like the sound of their first name. Therefore first-name basis helps to establish better communication and making it more friendly. Obviously in a more hierarchical social structure in Poland you have to be more careful with that. Not all people have tollerance for hobnobing. Anyway, this is one of the best service practices I like a lot.
Back to many versions of my first name I have already heard such propositions as: Votush, Wotchech, Wow…I can’t-say-that-man, hitech etc. Recently I have heard two new ones, i.e. Vodek i Voy. The latter one got my attention in particular. A waiter in a fast-food chain trying to utter my first name said that my name sounds so strong.
Voy!!!! Wow. This is such a strong name, man!
Since I know the meaning of my first name I was totally shocked at his great intuition regarding my first name. Little did he know that my name actually signifies a warrior (Woj-), who brings joy (-ciech), or the one who fights with joy. I admit my first name describes me pretty accurately.
When I look at my wife and daughter, both named Anna, I see in them the quintessence of their name, i.e. grace and beauty. As for my sons, the eldest one, also Wojciech, shows traces of a joyful warrior. Our youngest, Jas (diminiutive from Jan), who is soon turning 1,5 year, is a true embodiment of his first name, which means God is gracious and generous Giver. After all not many parents can say, they both being after 40 got such a great gift from Him.
So, do you know the meaning of your first names? Do you see the calling and identity they entail in your lives? I encourage you to contemplate that.