The name my parents gave me was "Sharon". I asked my mother once why they chose it, hoping for a good story. There wasn't one. "We liked it." They didn't know, or care what the name meant. I looked it up to see if they accidently named me something significant. "Sharon" means a "long flat plain".
When I played "Indian Adventures", I named myself. I was "Moon Star". My brothers dubbed me "Black-Footed-Spilly-Willy", because in the summer I rarely wore shoes, and fell when they tripped me. I protested it, but liked it better than a "long flat plain".
Now I have been given a Spirit Name by an Elder of the Ojibwa Nation. The name is to be used in ceremonies and I used it the first time last Saturday night for a sweat. I stumbled over the pronunciation, but now it's stuck in my head on repeat. I have a feeling it's going to remain stuck until I can say it without laughing at myself.
It is said we have been given a spirit name before we were born. To know it helps us become who we were meant to be. If the name is "found" when we are children it helps us find the path. If we are given it later in life it may confirm we are heading in the right direction, or help us find our way if we've become lost. For most of the people I know who received names as adults, the name confirmed what they knew. I saw them become more of what it was. For a few it was a surprise and they discovered something buried.
My name is translated as "Kind-Hearted Woman". Friends and family say it fits me perfectly, but they don't know how much I battled it. When I was a kid, my parents called me "soft-hearted". They teased about the strays I brought home, both animal and human. They pointed to the times I did things for people and they did nothing for me. They wondered if there was something wrong with me. Was I trying to make people like me by giving them rides and sharing my lunch?
I tried to assess situations more analytically, but it was hard to judge motives. If I gave someone money for lunch and then later saw them at the movies, it spoiled the movie. But if I didn't help someone and found out they really needed it, I felt horrible for days.
That became my life pattern. I feel compeled to do something for someone and try to talk myself out of it. Since people said this was the perfect name, I guess I hid my dilema well.
Hearing my name was a relief. There was nothing wrong with me and I don't have to apologize or defend something that is the essence of me.
Being kind doesn't mean being soft. It’s a struggle to be kind to those who act mean and hateful. And sometimes kindness doesn't look nice.
Forty eight hours after receiving my name, I had a meeting with a parent and a youth from the Arts Apprenticeship program I run. The young woman was uncooperative, disrespectful, distracting other youth, and had been suspended from the program. This was a meeting to determine if she would be reinstated. She apologized saying she understood what she had done wrong. Everyone else seemed satisfied, but I detected a smirk. "I don't think you mean it. Come back tomorrow and tell me why you want to be here and how you will change your behavior. I want specifics."
I doubt the young woman thinks I am "kind-hearted". But her mother thanked me, and gave me a hug.