We sit on the floor. The conversation wanders lazily as she shares her story. One parent had been interested in homeschooling, the other wasn't willing to risk it. "Mama once got an email signed by Sarita. It came on her birthday right after my grandma died."
Her huge eyes, so akin to the anime she loves, begin to mist with tears. "It meant so much to her. I realize you probably don't know Sarita, but just the fact that you work at Sonlight means a lot to my mom."
"You know who Sarita is, right?" Inwardly, I'm giddy with the news I'm about to drop on her. "Sarita is my mom."
Instantly we have a bond, a connection, a point of reference that links this girl, her mom, and me. The other terms we've used--homeschooler, Christian, friend--none have sparked anything close to light that my family's name ignited.
Names allow us to connect. We like our labels, our terms, our groups. We also use names to create stereotypes. Depending on your affiliations, terms like homeschooler, Catholic, liberal, stay at home mom, modesty, and anti-vax conjure very different images. I think this is the foundation for the recent "What I Really Do" meme.
So what's in a name?
The opportunity to connect or distance yourself. Be it the Hatfields and the McCoys, the Capulets and Montagues, an alien "Bugger" race, or even the defense of one's name presented in The Crucible, which side you're on and what the other side thinks can have devastating results. That's why I appreciate Sonlight's commitment to helping you see all sides of an issue. When we better understand, we can connect and communicate even if we disagree.
And it's possible that when Brittany and I finally get to meet this girl's mom, she may decide we're not her favorite people. But, with the connection that we have and the opportunity to see her side of things, I think we'll be able to get along.
Do homeschoolers have a good name in your area? Are there any groups you're a part of that have a name from which you wish you could distance yourself?
Filmmaker, Writer, Empty Nester
P.S. If you're interested in seeing what some homeschoolers really do, check out the 2012 Sonlight Scholarship Winners.