When I was a kid, I saw a fascinating program on TV about Bob Smith. “Who is Bob Smith?” you might ask.
Well, the proper way to phrase the question is actually “Who are Bob Smith?”
You see, the show was about an annual reunion of all the Bob Smiths in the country. Some Bob Smith somewhere started the trend, after being mistaken for another Bob Smith. The name is so common, he wanted to do something uncommon with it. So, he thought it might be fun to meet all of the other Bob Smiths in the country so that they could share stories, have a few laughs, and presumably, swap monogrammed clothing.
Summer camp underwear included.
The reunion was huge, and I found this fascinating. Those of us with uncommon monikers (Dannemiller, Pfreugenberger, Stachkew) have a love/hate relationship with our names. All at once we love our uniqueness, yet curse the fact that the mention of our name to any restaurant hostess or tech support rep requires an additional five minutes of spelling.
I always thought a Scott Dannemiller reunion party would be a lonely affair. Then one day back in high school, we received a call at our home. My dad answered the phone.
The voice responded, “Hello. Yes. This is Scott Dannemiller.”
“No it’s not.” Dad answered. “ Scott Dannemiller is taking a nap in my La-Z-Boy.”
That’s a party of two, please.
We learned that another Scott Dannemiller had moved to Oklahoma City. Apparently, he had come to town for a job opportunity. When he went to the bank to cash his first check, the teller refused to give him money. She was a high school friend of mine, and was afraid this guy was trying to empty my checking account of all twenty-six dollars and eighty-two cents. Luckily, he was able to clear up the matter. He couldn’t believe the coincidence, and just wanted to call and introduce himself to us, given that we are distant relatives.
Over the years, I have enjoyed this name-sharing connection. The other Scott Dannemiller is an avid triathlete. His name constantly appears in newspaper clippings and on websites for ultra fit people who eat equal amounts of protein and carbs, and compare body fat percentages. I’ll often get approached by folks who say, “Hey Scott, I saw that you ran one of those 70-mile races this past weekend. I had no idea you were such a runner! Congratulations!”
“Thanks!” I’d reply.
Why make them feel stupid, right?
Back when Gabby and I got married, we started receiving odd gifts in the mail. Stuff we hadn’t registered for. When we called the department store in Austin to clear things up, we found out that the other Scott Dannemiller was getting married as well.
The same day of our wedding.
In my old hometown.
To a girl who went to my high school.
After a few hours, I was fortunate enough to convince Gabby that I wasn’t a closet polygamist, and we got down to the business of returning all their gifts to them, save for the big screen TV from his Uncle Al. It would be impolite to refuse such generosity.
Every so often, I’ll Google my name for the sake of narcissism. There will be stories of our mission service alongside stories of his athletic achievements. But last time I surfed for myself I was shocked to learn that I had died in an electrical fire about fifteen years ago. It seems there is a third Scott Dannemiller, an electrician, that I will never have the chance to meet face-to-face, may he rest in peace. And a fourth who is a high school baseball player. And a couple others.
But perhaps the biggest shock of all came last week when I received a very curious email. The names have been changed for obvious reasons.
Subj: could you please respond to me in private… this is Jane Doe… Julie Doe’s sister
Scott---I tried to look you up on facebook but couldn't find you. I did a yahoo search and found this e-mail. Out of respect for your wife and her being pregnant---I will not contact her and cause her undue stress. But---I do have some questions if you would be so kind. Can you please just email me back so I know that you are the Scott I'd like to communicate with. My sister does not know that I am trying to contact you. Just let me know if you would be willing to communicate with me. I am concerned about my sister.
Thanks for your time---Jane Doe
My stomach instantly began to churn. Jane Doe? Julie Doe? What could I have done to warrant this clandestine email? Must have been pretty bad. I scanned my memory.
The stomach churning stopped when I remembered that I don’t know a Jane Doe. Or a Julie Doe. Or any Doe for that matter. Unsure what to make of this email, I just deleted it. I thought it was probably some sort of SPAM, where someone wanted to make contact with me so they could sell me something to make certain body parts smaller, or others bigger. Worse yet, they would sucker me into giving them $10,000 to retrieve the millions that the prince of Bundesia had left for me.
Fool me once, shame on you, I say.
The next day, I received another email.
To: [firstname.lastname@example.org] From: [JaneDoe@fakeaddress.com]
SORRY SCOTT!!!! You are the wrong Scott. No need to respond to my previous email. I hope I didn't cause you stress by not knowing who the heck I was. ---Jane
OK. So I guess it wasn’t SPAM. My mind immediately drifted to thinking about this poor woman. How mortified she must be. She obviously had some significant drama in her life, and now she had involved a complete stranger. I imagined her realizing her mistake and running to the keyboard in slow motion, trying to delete the message that had already been sent. But the toothpaste is already out of the tube.
Wanting to calm her fears, I responded.
No worries, Jane. I hope everything turns out ok for you. I’m just glad to know that my wife isn’t pregnant. Thanks for clearing that up. -Scott.
All of these episodes of mistaken identity got me to thinking . Maybe the identities weren’t so mistaken after all. I am all of these people. The singer, the writer, the triathlete, the electrician, the baseball player, the one who creates drama and conjures up clandestine emails.
Aren’t we all?
We are multiple personalities wrapped into one. The boring and the exciting. There are some days where we are super parents, and others when we should just be glad our screaming antics aren’t on some secret Child Protective Services video tape. There are times when we are selfless to a fault, and others when our selfishness knows no bounds. The shining moments when we love unconditionally, and the dark hours when we feel unworthy of love.
We’re all human, and therein lies the beauty of it all. We are as The Creator made us. Broken and blessed.
And I believe God’s message is this. Love yourself. Every part of you. The bright spots and the shadows. The stuff that works and the garbage that doesn’t. Without the ability to give thanks for the you that was made, we have no ability to fully bestow love on others. So today, I pray that I can come to love both the good and bad in myself. And to fully immerse myself in this world where I can use what I’ve been given to make a difference. In big ways and small ways. Common or uncommon.