She’s had this name all her life, but she’s only now realizing it’s kind of weird. She’s never had to think about it before, but now – with safety patrol members calling her name over the walkie talkies every afternoon – she is keenly aware that our name is kind of tricky.
The first day of school, she climbed into the back seat with her oversized (yet floppy with emptiness) pink backpack.
“They said our name weird! I didn’t know it was MY NAME they were saying!”
I smiled and kind of chuckled as I told her, “Yeeeeah, sweetie…..that’s going to happen.”
Many times over the month since school started, she has asked me how different people have said our name.
“What do some people say our name is?” she’ll ask. And again we’ll go through the list: BULL-yerd. Bull-YARD. BOWL-yerd. Bowl-YARD. BILL-yard. BULL-erd. Ballard, Billiard, Bellyerd.
“But it’s Bolyard. Like a BALL.”
And over and over, I tell her yes. She shakes her head, not understanding how someone can mess up something she never considered could be any different. As she expresses her exasperation, I see an opportunity.
“I know it gets kind of old, honey. But people don’t mean to mess it up. They just don’t know, so we have to be kind when we correct them. Be gentle and forgiving when you tell them the right way to say it.”
“Like this?” she asks, clearly placing herself in the middle of such a situation. “It’s actually BALL-yerd,” she says, her voice sweet and soft, with not even a hint of the frustration she had clearly felt a moment before.
I tell her that yes, that’s a good way to do it, and I go on: “It’s a really good chance to show people grace, like God always shows us grace when we mess things up that should be pretty easy.”
Really, that’s what I want to teach her about every interaction – mispronounced name or not. I want her to be known as gracious, freely giving of that which she has freely received. I want people to see my little girl as a safe place to make mistakes – a safe place to fall – a safe place to land. I want them to know she will extend grace to them, not because I want her to be walked on and hurt (though I realize that is an obvious risk). No, I want her to be characterized by grace so that people can see where that grace comes from. I want her to be so full of grace and love and mercy and kindness that people are drawn to her not because she is a sweet little girl, but because they can see the glory of God emanating from that sweet little girl.
I want people to learn about God by what they see in her, and if God wants to use our weird last name to accomplish that in her, that’s okay with me.