What’s in a name?

The daily schedule of the writer’s conference I attended in early June did not coincide with my usual routine and by the time the early morning workshop concluded, the time for my usual second cup of coffee had long passed. I eagerly joined other attendees for a coffee break.

Coffee pots, cream, sugar, pastries and fruit were available on a long table that was set out on the campus lawn under the trees.

I made my way to one of the large coffee pots and fully engaged to adjust the spigot to fill my cup with coffee. My focus on pouring that beverage was so intense that most people would be pleased if their brain surgeon used half as much concentration when performing an intricate, high-stakes procedure.

My cup filled, I sidestepped to the cream station, added a splash of half-and-half, stirred, and, anticipating a big gulp, I surfaced from the act of preparing the coffee to find my nose almost touching the nose of a man who was equally intent on getting coffee.


He collapsed his arm, so it would fit in the squeeze between us and extended his hand.  “I’m Matthew.”

“Gift of God,” I said, with a small hand pump. I minimized my usual pump, so the handshake would fit in the space between us.


“Gift of God. That’s what your name means.” I guess I felt our proximity called for more than the usual small talk.

“I know. My daughter told me that a few weeks ago.”

“Your parents never did?”

“I’m sure they did at one time. But when my daughter told me–that’s when I remembered.”

As we went our separate ways to guzzle our coffee, I thought about names and how the significance of a name or a message can be lost on us and then, when delivered by the right messenger, at the right time, we get it.

I thought about a time, a few years ago, when my name–Faith–was the message a woman prayed for. When I encountered her, she was crying in the restroom of the university library.

I asked her if I could help.

“No. I’ll be alright,” she sniffed. “It’s just that I’ve lost a book, a library book, and they say its going to cost me $75.00. I know that’s not a lot to some people, but it’s a lot to me.”

“It’s a lot to me, too,” I said.

I handed her a tissue. She wiped her face. “I’m a single mom. I was going to buy shoes for my son and now I’ll have to pay for the book.”

“I can ask at my church. I’m sure we could find someone who would help buy the shoes.”

“No. We’ll be okay,” she said resolutely.

“I’ll pray you find the book,” I said.

She washed and dried her hands, pulled her purse onto her shoulder and extended one hand in a cordial gesture. “My name is Alicia.”

I shook her hand and smiled. “My name is Faith.”

Her face turned white. She looked as shocked as if I’d slapped her, or demanded to do brain surgery on her without anaesthesia.

I felt perplexed. I wondered what I’d done to stun her so.

Before I could ask, she started out the door. As she walked, she murmured, “I asked for faith. And I guess that’s what he gave me.”

I like thinking about names. According to the creation story in the Book of Genesis, naming things was the first task God assigned to humans.

These days we name people, pets, boats, houses… paint colors: copper harbor, coming up roses, sunny veranda. Sometimes, I choose a paint color because I like the name. I don’t recommend my selection technique!

After the conference, I visited my parents in the quaint town of Noank, Connecticut  and on my walks, I paid special attention to the names of boats and houses. Below are pictures of ones I found interesting:


Has this boat seen better days? Or is the name one to live up to?
What about this name? Does the author want a different boat? A bigger boat?


The name is : Point of view and the one above which you can’t see and I couldn’t post due to technical challenges is: Dreamcatcher

Is this a superlative? Summer-est! Or do they mean: Summer rest? Either way I like it.

Author: Faith McDonald

I'm a writer and writing teacher. I live in Central Pennsylvania with my husband Steve. I have three amazing children, Matt, Phil and Cara. I love to read, My favorite book is often the one I'm currently reading. I love to cook. I try new recipes often; sometimes, even when company is coming--not a good idea. Once in awhile the meal turns out. I enjoy being outdoors and active. I love to bike with my friends and to cross-country ski.

4 thoughts on “What’s in a name?”

  1. Faith, I love the story of the woman who prayed for faith and got you. God has a sense of humor. Thanks for sharing a story–and pictures–that made me smile today!

  2. I often wonder why people have chosen a certain name for their boat. One I saw was called cost a lot–having worked in a bank and having seen a lot of boat loans I can guess why they used that name!

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