Every morning, it was the same elevator ride.
With the same three or four faces.
Each one of us getting off on a different floor.
Trapped in a vertical box of awkwardness.
Staring up at the floor numbers as if they held the answer to life’s biggest questions. 

For years, I worked as an Attorney on the 9th floor of a law firm.
I knew everyone in that firm by name. All 15 of us.
However, the morning elevator ride with strangers from different floors felt short on distance but oh-so-long on awkwardness.
People were either glued to their phones, sipping morning coffee, or staring at their shoes.
I began to dread that ride so much that I wanted to come in 20 minutes earlier to avoid it altogether.

Then, one day, I thought: “What if we, you know, talked?”
“Hi, I’m Jill,” I finally said, half-expecting to be met with indifference.
Instead, like a dam bursting, names flowed forth.
Jack was phone guy. Becca, coffee sipper. And Cole, shoe lover.

I never said it out loud, but in my mind, that was the beginning of the Elevator Breakfast Club.
That metal box morphed into a brief haven of connection.
We no longer just shared space; we began to share small snippets of our lives. 

Since it worked so well in an elevator, I decided to try it at the sandwich shop that I frequented 2-3 times a week.
The “girl behind the counter” became Sadie.
The single mom working her way through college to obtain a teaching degree, with a heart for special education.
And that sandwich shop friendship all started with just one word.
Her name.  

Dale Carnegie once said, “Names are the sweetest and most important sound in any language.”
It’s more than just a word.
In a world where many feel lost in a sea of shallow connections, it makes someone feel as if they matter.
Some people go weeks, months, and often years without ever feeling seen.
Names bridge gaps, break ice, and can turn a room full of strangers into a gathering of potential friends.

I’ve often envisioned a “Say My Name” movement, where schools across the country distribute name tags.
For one week, everyone makes it their mission to call others by their name, breaking the barrier of anonymity.
Imagine that student or co-worker who often feels overlooked.
The moment their name is spoken aloud, there’s a profound shift.
It’s like handing them a lifeline, a tether to the community around them.

When someone acknowledges you, sees you, knows your name – it does something inside of you.
It builds a sense of belonging.
It truly has a transformative effect.

But this transformation isn’t just for the receiver.
When you take the time to learn and say someone’s name, the ripple effect is twofold.
The more you use names, the bolder you become in other interactions.
Before you know it, you’re not just remembering names; you’re starting conversations, building friendships, and gaining a newfound confidence.

So the next time you are introduced to someone, really listen.
Repeat their name. Use it in the conversation.
When you find yourself in a room or elevator full of strangers, dare to break the silence.
Break the cycle of anonymity.
Everyone carries their unique story, and by merely starting with their name, you unlock the first page.