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  • Jolene Roehlkepartain

The Power of a Name

Every time someone calls out my name, my spirit lifts. There’s something about being noticed.

Fortunately, I have an unusual first name. I’ve met only three other Jolenes in my life, and we’ve all agreed it’s nice to have a memorable name. My cousin’s son, Matthew, wasn’t happy to go to college and discover 14 other Matthews living in his dormitory corridor. (The Matthews got creative, however, and came up with other ways to be known.)

I also have a last name that most people don’t know what to do with. My husband and I merged our last names when we married. He was the Partain, and I was the Roehlke. Partainroehlke sounded like a car driving over a pot-hole infested road whereas Roehlkepartain rolled off our tongues like a smooth ride. The trick has been to help people learn how to pronounce it: Roll-key-par-tane.

The other trick has been convincing our two kids that having a 14-letter-long last name is a good thing. Both panicked that they’d flunk first grade since their teacher said no one moved to second grade until he or she could spell both his or her first and last name. Now that they’re older, they’re proud to be one of four Roehlkepartains living on this planet.

When we learn each other’s names and call each other by name, we’re making a statement. We’re saying that each person is important—and valued. When we call each other by name, we show that each person matters.

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