April 10th – “Where Everybody Knows Your Name”

Did you hear that Cliff Clavin turned 71 last week? That is to say, the actor John Ratzenburger who played Cliff on the series “Cheers” turned 71. The quirky, annoying, but loveable Cliff was a great character on a great show.

One of my favourite parts of Cheers was the opening song, “making your way in the world today, takes everything you got….sometimes you want to go where everybody know your name.” (You’re humming that tune now, aren’t you? You’re welcome!). I always thought that was a pretty potent statement. Isn’t it true? Life, the world, the universe, Donald Trump; it all seems so complicated these days. That is why we need places and people to tether us.

Is there a place where you go where everybody knows your name? A church, a club, a sports team, a gym, a circle of friends?

There is one routine that I haven’t changed during my sabbatical, and that is getting up at 5:20am every weekday morning to drive across town to a 6am CrossFit class at “The Cabin”. Someone in the class said to me today, “Phil, you don’t have to come to this class now, you can sleep in and go to a later class.” That’s true, I could. The workout would be the same.  The coaches would be the same.  BUT people at the later classes don’t know my name. That’s the difference. We have a guy in our class who likes to call out everyone’s name when they walk in, AND IT FEELS GREAT! Hearing your name spoken by someone, opens up a wonderfully, welcoming space. Some mornings I feel like Norm walking into Cheers!  And THAT is why I keep getting up at 5:20am when I could sleep the early morning away.

Kurt Vonnegut once said, “the goal of the next generation, should be to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” Amen!! There is a lot of loneliness out there. There are a lot people who wish someone knew their name.

Today I am grateful to every church, club or organization that opens up not just physical space, but emotional space, by making everyone feel welcome.

Today I am grateful to every coach who learns the names and not just the numbers of those on his/her team.

Today I am grateful to every teacher, leader, minister, nurse, CEO, bartender, PSW, who calls out someone’s name when they walk in a room. It matters!!

In the gospel, Jesus said something to his disciples one day that must have been music to their ears, “I no longer call you followers, I call you friends.” It was an acknowledgment that they were more than workers on a “mission”, they were valued, loved and appreciated for who they were.

In the heart of God, we surely are more than strangers, we are friends. Thank you to everyone who understands this, for you are doing your part to cure the disease of loneliness.

Happy birthday Cliff!