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What’s in a Name?

What’s in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet. --Romeo and Juliet, II, 2

“Hi Lani, how are you doing?”

Lani is a senior lady I’d often meet and greet at Te Amo’s Convenience Store.

“I’m good, thank you.” Her smile is disarmingly cordial.

“I haven’t seen you in a while. How’s the family?”

“We’re doing very well, how nice of you to ask.”

Lani then engages me in a lively conversation about herself, the neighborhood, the weather. I like her warm and genial demeanor.

Except that, to my horror, she isn’t Lani! I just greeted a complete stranger who is a dead ringer for Lani! But the more we continue exchanging pleasantries, the more I find her warmer than the real Lani I know. “I need to grab the bus,” I say casually, to hide my embarrassment. “Nice seeing you. Take care.” I wish I knew her name.

“Have a great day. God bless you.” She smiles and gets back to the cashier while I do my disappearing act. Once when I was still working, one of my employees at JFK Airport told me he mistakenly called my name when he saw someone walking at the Terminal 4 arrivals lobby. He even asked the guy what he was doing at the airport. Several days after that incident, my brother Oggie called me to tell me that someone kept following him at the airport calling him Mr. Manny, Mr. Manny, and then the guy would burst into laughter. I told him that was Peter, one of my jovial good-natured supervisors.

With the billions of people on this planet, chances are someone out there would look like somebody you knew. And there is definitely a good chance that somebody out there would resemble you.

I’m sure you’ve often heard these phrases:

“Doesn’t he look like your friend Jun?”

“Doesn’t she talk and act like Anne?”

“I hope she is a nice person, too.”

There was once an Obama dead ringer who was featured in Philippine newspapers a few years ago. I wonder where he is now. I recall he was a big hit with everyone, with people wanting to have selfies with him. I have not heard anything about that person for some time now, but, boy, did he look like former President Obama.

I am reminded of the look-alikes in the entertainment industry who double up as stuntmen for the stars.

It is quite interesting to find out that even if some people may look alike, or even do things alike, they are all unique in their own individual personalities. Appearances can be deceiving. I once warned my son several years ago when he was still in his college dorm to be careful with the company he was keeping. A couple of his dorm-mates looked like the bad guys I’d watch on TV.

“Pa, don’t say that. They may look mean but they are really good people.”

Over time, when I got to know those friends better, I realized he was right. In fact, they turned out to be a blessing to my son.

As I turn by the corner of 73rd and Main Streets I see two tuxedo cats sitting on a window ledge in one of the houses. Both look exactly like the cat I used to have. I realize this is also the case with animals. Two or more cats may look alike but none of them are alike in their attitudes, especially in the way they’d react on instinct.

I am on my way home now from my daily walk, but I take a different route home. That senior lady may still be by Te Amo’s. I have this amusing hope that I meet her again tomorrow. Perhaps I’d ask her her name. Perhaps not. What matter. She exudes a warm heart; I think that in our interpersonal relationships that is all that matters.

I continue walking and look at the new buildings rising in the neighborhood. I look at the myriad people coming from all races and backgrounds. I realize I have been living here in NY for four decades already. I have seen many states and countries. One of the certainties I have learned at this stage in my life is the truth that appearances are not always reality. The sun rises in the east and sets in the west. That is the appearance. If we look deeper, that is not the reality. I think that we must take this cue in our daily lives and look deeper than appearances. In a word, we must look at the heart.

Which brings me to 1 Samuel 16 verse 7: “But the Lord said to Samuel, Do not look at his appearance or at his physical stature, because I have refused him. For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

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