14 September 2009

Running Into Famous People

Sunday afternoon, the final service of the day. I'm looking out the classroom window at the garden below. It is half harvested now. Still hundreds of pounds of potatoes, tomatoes, carrots and cabbage yet to be pulled, but close to 9,000 pounds of vegetables have gone to the kitchen and to four local foodbanks already.

Into the classroom comes a young man. "Catholic service?" It is. He sticks out his hand. "I'm Chuck Norris." I bite my tongue and resist making a crack about his famous namesake, certain that he's heard it all his life. He's bright, chatty, full of questions. The room fills up.

Later I run across Gary Cooper who has decided he is Pagan this time through prison. Who knew?

Today, I got to talk to Carole King. Turns out she's the mother of one of my guys. No, not that Carole King.

Names are a great fun thing around here. Perhaps because I was a teacher for 10 years, I tend to notice names and can make a fairly good guess at how they have been mispronounced over the years. Growing up, my last name was Cain. Every English teacher I ever had in high school, on the first day of class, would take roll and get to my name and say, "Cain? Where's Abel?" And there was an Abel. Carol Abel. Junior year she sat two rows over and one back. She probably got the same question in other classes.

I've made phone calls for guys whose entire family had names beginning with T. (Note to self: Do not ask if their dad is "Mister T.")

More fun is trying to extricate the name of "my baby's momma's momma's sister." Does she have a name? Or does she go by "Hey you?"

Some of the Hispanic men are impressed when I can spell their names after hearing it the first time, but I grew up in Southern California and it isn't such a parlor trick as it might seem. One of my brothers had a good friend while we were growing up. We often came home to a message that read, "Geoff, Jesus called."

"What am I supposed to call you?" The man was truly puzzled as he was leaving my office today. There are so many choices! Twenty years ago, my students in New Orleans called me "Ms. O." These days I answer to "Chaplain," "Sister," "Shannon (or Sharon or Janet)."

But I do love running into famous people. Gary, Chuck, nice to meet you.


NC Sue said...

Now you have me wondering - I meet lots of people in the course of my work, but almost never anyone with a famous name. Could it be that the percentage of famous-named-but-not-really-famous people in higher in prison than on the outside?


St Edwards Blog said...

Oh that is great. Thanks for this - I smiled and I prayed.