Saturday, October 22, 2011

The problem with names

I’m discovering that I really like having names for the new things and experiences that are now a part of my life. It helps me to understand and process what I am experiencing when I am able to actually stick a name on it.

Words hold a lot of power. A simple word or phrase can conjure up a myriad of images in your mind. And with those images come a set of expectations. Thus comes my struggle when I am unable to come up with a satisfactory name.

My work at the Hogar Amanecer exemplifies this tension. The name Hogar Amanecer literally means Home of the Dawn (it works a lot better in Spanish). For lack of a better term I have used the word orphanage to describe it. But this creates some problems.

I don’t know about you, but when I hear the word orphanage I make certain assumptions.

•    The kid’s parents are dead.
•    It is a place without a lot of hope.

These are some pretty significant assumptions, but they don’t actually apply to my work here. Most (possibly all) of the kids have parents that are still alive, they are just parents who made extremely poor life choices and are unable to care for their children. As for hope, all of the kids have some type of family with whom there is hope that they will be able to live with at some point in the future. In fact, in just the last two years a number of kids have moved out of the Hogar to live with their family. The kids are always telling stories about their family and what they did when they spent time together. They are full of hope that they will be able to go and live with their families once again.

So where does that leave me as far as names go? It reminds me of the power that word choice has to influence our thoughts and feelings.  Maybe it is not so important to fixate on the “name” of something, but rather on the reality of what is occurring there. So instead of orphanage, the Hogar is a home. Because when it comes down to it that’s what it really is, a new family for kids who got the bad draw the first time around.

On an outing to the zoo

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