There are several benefits to having a highly common name. Many ways that fate screams by you and with just a tiny dodge – unscathed. I am not the Matthew Miller you are looking for (waves hand at guard checkpoint).
The phone calls threatening to bury my credit under a mountain of pain and anguish are never for me. What’s my middle initial and my address – yep, wrong number, no problem – have a good day. The vitriol on the other end rapidly drains away with a now rational-sounding person on the line. I can’t imagine what it must be like to drum up a Samuel Jackson-esque interrogation with every call connection.
Similarly, ordering pizza is a breeze. Here’s my phone and name – a two second pause without asking how to spell either first or last and it’s on the way! They don’t mix up my name at the coffee counter either, because I don’t have a name generated by Googling something loved and portmanteau-ing it. My brother did this – he took two beloved family names and named his first child with a mashup of them, creating (in the early days of her birth, at least) an awkward arrangement of syllables with repeating stress accent.
Consider my poor wife who, with her maiden name, had a terrible disadvantage in daily roll calls at school or in sports, confounding announcers at every turn. While there is now a famous athlete whose surname is nearly identical, back then, when he was not yet on the scene, people would spew something more akin to the volcano from Walter Mitty. When she changed her last name to mine, she not only shortened it by more than half the number of letters, she also made paying bills by check a breeze.
Not diminishing the heavy despair that must be oppressive in a North Korean prison, I find myself thankful for being free to do what I want today. To sit here and write, reaching out to others wherever they might be, in whatever work they find themselves is a massive blessing to be sure.
Yet, something I read in the account of the men incarcerated struck me. Two of the men are being held for preaching the gospel and distributing bibles in one of the darkest places, spiritually, on the planet. That is devotion, folks, pure and simple. You have to really get out of yourself to want to see people set free in a country that treats its own citizens no different than prisoners. The third man, the one who shares my first and last, however, he tore up his tourist visa at the airport and shouted for ‘asylum.’
Now, there are hard times in everyone’s life to varying degrees that make them do desperate things. But if you were able to go back in time to your earlier self somewhere and say, “You’re going to be seeking help and shelter from North Korea because of what you’ve done,” it might be a good time to re-evaluate your priorities and consider a new path in life.
I do hope for a swift return to the U.S. for the men being held. And I hope that whoever gets it done, whether it’s Bill Clinton or Dennis Rodman seducing Kim Jong-un over Eric Clapton ballads, gets a proper thank you. Whatever we may feel about why they’re there, what they are being held for, should they have done it or not and so on – if you were the one being held, you’d be praying to God above for mercy from your countrymen to get you out of there A.S.A.-freaking-P.
From a yet-to-be-announced tourism campaign for North Korea:
Have a great day, everyone, and be thankful.