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Welcoming the Stranger is not my number one skill. It actually isn’t even in the top ten. So where as my thoughts on the Familiar carry some scope of practice, my thoughts here are based almost entirely on the actions I see in others and how I would like to be treated when I play this role.

It seems like the best starting point, though, is telling the Stranger your name right after saying, “Hello.” Then asking their’s. It might go something like, “Hello, my name is Robert. What’s yours?”

(It can be argued that, at this point, they are no longer a Stranger. However, they aren’t quite Familiar yet, that takes a while. So, for sake of argument, I’ll say they are still a Stranger.)

I remember being told in preschool and kindergarten that this was how you made new friends. I don’t recall a time when I actually believed it would work. I think even three-year-olds have a rough idea of how complex relationships can be and the myriad of circumstances that can operate to bring them about. But even so, all of that complexity can be torn down by our own decision to act in spite of them and introduce ourselves.

There is something about sharing our names that can be at least a little vulnerable. I always liked the story of Treebeard from The Lord of the Rings. When Merry and Pippin give Treebeard their names, he is surprised that they used their real names and considers it an honor, though something they should be wary of in the future.

In this day and age, your name may be all that’s needed to run a fairly extensive and reliable background check of you, your family, your college roommates, their other roommates, and how many times you got a haircut during your 17th year of life.

So, while it may seem awkward to say, “Hello my name is…” like so many sticker name tags do, I think there is something incredibly welcoming about sharing your name and asking for the Stranger’s. It shows that you care about their identity. For some people, that may make a world of difference.

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