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The Worst Last Name

Raise your hand if you have THE WORST last name

I did some substitute teaching a few years ago, and one morning I introduced myself to a class of 8th graders in a slightly self-deprecating way to help them remember my goofy last name.

“It sounds like FULL and WIDER” I said, extending my arms around my belly to demonstrate. A tall, dark haired boy raised his hand and said “Oh yeah? Your last name isn’t as bad as mine. I have the worst last name in this whole school.” He spelled it for me – a tangle of random letters, impossible to pronounce just from looking at it. And he said that he hated his last name.

It broke my heart for a kid at such a pivotal stage of identity development to feel embarrassment and contempt for his heritage. That night, I Googled his last name, and the next day when he walked into class I said to him “Did you know that your ancestors were members of the nobility? Not only that, they are one of the very few last names that rose from the common class to the noble class. They actually EARNED their nobility, which was nearly impossible to do in the 16th century.”

The pride on his face was instant. If I remember correctly, he looked at his friend and said “Ha! I’m nobility!”

Knowing your ancestry isn’t about your past. It’s about your future. How you see yourself today, right now, determines the trajectory of your life. Click To Tweet

Studies have shown over and over again that individuals who know their family and cultural history are more resilient. They adapt better in new situations, they thrive in harsher social environments, they overcome greater obstacles.

You don’t have to trace your bloodline through genealogy, or take a DNA test to determine your ethnic makeup. You can explore your heritage best by saving the family stories – stories of victory and defeat, and virtue and of vice. Of persecution, and perseverance, and poverty and providence. All of these things.  History serves us in a very real way, it’s relevant to how you live your life every day.

That’s why the theme for March is “Find the story.”

I challenge you to Google your last name right now – ditch the scroll and learn something new about where you came from. Click To Tweet

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