The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

April 27, 2013

People know us by image we project

Keeping The Faith column

By Bev Davis

— Editor’s note: This column by the late Bev Davis originally was published March 1, 2000. Davis passed away Aug. 1, 2010, of a sudden illness.

I didn’t always hate my name. It was only after I learned to read and write and look things up in a dictionary that I acquired a real distaste for it.

I was named Beverly after a family friend and inherited Anne from my mother and maternal grandmother.

One day at school I learned names have meanings. I looked mine up. Big mistake.

Anne was easy to find. Of British origin, it means “grace.” I could live with that. Then I discovered the awful truth about Beverly. It comes from two words — beaver and lea, meaning meadow. My name literally means “field of beavers.”

Don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against chubby little critters with wide flat tails and buck teeth, but that first thought of associating them with my identity reduced me to tears. “What were my parents thinking?” I whined.

Hoping to make me feel better, they bought me name plaques and personalized mugs where manufacturers had tried to gloss things over by using definitions such as “industrious one” or “diligent person.” I didn’t buy it. I knew the truth.

I tried using Beverlyanne as one name, telling myself it meant “field of graceful beavers,” but I couldn’t even sell myself on that one.

I decided to change my name to something soft and wistful — Cynthia. I refused to look up the meaning. I would live in ignorant bliss with a lovely feminine name. My parents didn’t buck the idea. They just smiled discreetly and waited to see what would happen when I reached legal age and could give myself a new moniker.

Wise folks, those two. By the time I became an adult, I had learned our names, like the color of our skin, our ethnic background or our religious heritage, do not define our identity.

People come to know us by the image we project. They are far more interested in whether or not we are people of truth and integrity than in what label appears on our birth certificate.

Our identity names itself in the minds of others. Helpful. Sincere. Considerate. Faithful. Compassionate. Those are the names that matter. They are names we have to earn. They don’t come easily. Although I’m now at peace with my given name, I hope I’ll never be satisfied with my identity. I hope I’ll always be working on that.

Today, I regret wasting so much time fretting about my name. It seems foolish to have wasted all those years entangled in a lot of angst over something so trivial.

Oh, well. Leave it to a beaver to dam things up.