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Beyond the Name

The hospital parking lot in our small town is filled with the wailing of a fire engine, ambulance, police siren. You can imagine.

The sound keeps me alert. I continue to drive slowly while searching for a parking place. Clearly and happily, our pandemic numbers are down, but the number of the cars is up in the parking lot.

So here I am, among others who are either walking to or from the hospital. Shuttles pass us. People are dressed in heels, hoodies, Hawaiian shirts, overalls. Anything, everything—coming and going. I suddenly feel part of a parade.

When I arrive at the registration desk, I look down at the list ahead of me. Names that don’t easily roll off my tongue—Straka, Babulski, Galluzzo. Whatever happened to Smith, Harris, and Ellis–names that don’t stretch my brain?

That’s when I have my aha! moment.

People here may have recently come from a different country, or maybe their great-grandparents came from that other country. Either way, someone may have left a mother and father who did not know if they’d ever see their son or daughter again. Ms. Anna, who lived a mile from me, once shared that she left her homeland and saw nothing but adventure ahead for Eric and herself. But her mother grieved greatly. I’ve heard war stories, too, that make me believe some mothers might have prayed, “Thank you, Lord. My son is gone from these atrocities and has a good chance of finding a new beginning.”

Surely, we all know what it’s like to long for a fresh start for someone we love.

Back to names. As I slow down and think on it, names are memorials of the history of a family or of a people. Probably why genealogy is so important. In Biblical times, there were stories to go with signs and the symbolic use of stones. When children asked about the stones, parents told them a story of their heritage. The same can be true of names—names themselves have stories to tell.

Upon retirement, my husband and I came to the land of fishing, boating, water skiing, hiking. No secret that the Ozarks are beautiful every season of the year.

Many people come and eventually die here. They do not want to leave. A friend told me once, “My relatives can come and visit us from the north, east, and west. This is our home.” Sounded like something a settler might have said in the 1800s.

And that’s what happens. Families come and visit, and many decide it’s the most beautiful place on earth, so they move here, too.

Well, on I go to Walmart, my next stop. Walmart is where I see all the faces—they’re shopping, just like me. I go to the car wash, post office, bank. They’re everywhere, and they’re from everywhere. Many must be more traveled than I’ll ever be.

Sometimes I’m the outsider. I stand in line at Walmart and hear families speaking Spanish, German, Portuguese. I don’t understand what they’re saying. I just catch a phrase or sound I recognize.

I recognize many faces of those who were born and raised in Baxter County. They attended school around here and work in the area. They grew up surrounded by rivers, lakes, trees, mountains. So do they have an edge on the rest of us? Not really. However, I do think it means they grew up truly blessed, whether they’re aware of it or not.

The Ozarks belong to God. It’s a place where there’s room for Mr. Jones and Mr. Jurkowski. We all ride these hills. Many of us are putting down roots, and those roots are deepening, but the beauty is for every one of us.

It’s true that some locals may see the rest of us as outsiders, until they learn who we are. In fact, some of these "outsiders" serve the local community by teaching their children and grandchildren, doctoring their maladies, and representing them in court.

Do you understand what I’m saying?

We are all trying to scrape by in this world, no matter where we come from. Some are here hoping to get rich. Some are rich when they come. Then there are those standing on corners at Walmart with a cardboard sign.

I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m the one who simply needs to listen to the people—the locals and those from other places. I need to listen and love all of them.

Yesterday I ran into Diane Stefan (a Hungarian name). We stood in the parking lot and laughed for ten minutes. It would not have made the conversation one bit happier had her name been Amy Smith.

More new people. They’re coming. There’ll always be new ones to add to the community.

I think heaven will be like that, too. Only maybe people in heaven won’t have last names. Maybe it’ll be like Adam, Sarah, Jeremiah, Mark, Hannah, Elijah when we get there.

Oh, I know that girl laughing over there. Her name is Maria. She’s saying hello to her friends. If we can just get to where it’s one big hello to everyone, everywhere, maybe the stress level will begin to shrink.

Wouldn’t it be nice to be like those children in the first grade who happily introduce every child in their room to their parents? Amazingly, they know every name and have no bias about where anyone comes from.

Children. They know how to love. That thought helps me have a good day.

God bless,

Pat Durmon

P. S. I always look forward seeing your comments and shares.

Walmart, Mountain Home, Arkansas, 2021. Photographed by Jimmy Durmon.

Books by Pat Durmon


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