Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Thursday, September 27, 2018


Christ In Winter: Reflections on Faith & Life for the Years of Winter… 

This will be my last column for a while, since we will be tied up for the next several days in daughter Mary Beth’s wedding to Bill Napolillo. Added significance for me, since it’s my final clergy act.

We’ll be seeing old friends and meeting new ones, so I’ve been thinking about names, particularly, remembering them.

Last Sunday morning, eating breakfast at church with Bryan Walters [our church serves a really good breakfast each Sunday], he asked me what techniques or mnemonic devices I had used through the years, since I had to learn so many names. I have used mnemonic devices only rarely, because most names don’t lend themselves to them very readily.

I have always tried at the moment I met someone to learn not just their name but some of their story. My early years were in campus ministry, and I had to learn the names of a couple hundred new students every year. I found that if I asked them for their home town and their major when I met them, they were not just a name, but a story.

Your name is just a shortened form of your story, and a story is easier to remember. If you’re Ron Wetzell, the poly sci major from Tampico, you’re much easier to remember than just Ron Wetzell.

So this weekend I’ll be with Chris Rander, the chemist who saves basset hounds from mean masters, and Jennifer Jackson, the Gospel singing MIT engineer who fights with broad swords and runs races up the stairs of sky scrapers, and Diane Jeffers, who directs summer camps for space cadets, and Sheila King, who does public relations for the city of Chicago, and Randy Estes who…is Randy. I’m looking forward to learning more of each of those stories, because they’re really interesting. That’s one of the good things about having interesting children; they have interesting friends.

John Robert McFarland

A problem with this business of how to remember is that I am old. As I wrote, I could not remember Bryan’s last name. I knew he was Dawn’s husband and Owen and Graham’s father and a great guitar player, but Walters simply eluded me. I knew the story, but could not remember the name. However, it’s more important to know the story than to remember all the title.

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