Naming My Friend

As I studied for the bar exam and began my first legal job out of law school, my dreams of Samuel continued, although, they were nowhere near as intense as those first two dreams. Their intensity would eventually rise again later, but for that time period, his appearances would be limited to seemingly insignificant cameos, where he would be in a group with other random people and when I came across his face, I would think, “I know him. What’s he doing here?” Or, I’d be having a dream about something else completely different, and he would suddenly appear saying, “Hey Paul, I just wanted to say hi.”

Every time I saw him in my dreams, I instantly recognized him, and woke up thinking of our first introduction, his brutal fight with Seth, and the image of the flower coming back to life, with the chorus of angels singing in the background. He was hanging around enough to keep the journal going and, obviously, I needed to give him a name. Despite the intensity of those first dreams, and his regular appearances thereafter, he never shared his name.

Thus, I began thumbing through boy names online to discover their meanings, as I wanted to give him a name that meant something to me and wasn’t just a name that sounded cool. I soon discovered that checking for name meanings online was frustrating as it’s rare to find two different websites giving you the same meaning for the same name. When I came across the name Samuel, I loved the meaning behind the name, and, best of all, there was agreement online on the name meaning. The name Samuel means “God has heard.”

The idea of God hearing us and hearing our prayers has innately been with me since I can remember. While I have never officially been designated to one specific religious sect, I’ve always had a spiritual mindset, believing that there is something greater than the material world and our five senses. I have no objective reason for this belief. It was just how I came into this world. I was also fortunate enough, at a young age, to be exposed to different world religions and the spiritual concepts at their foundations.

Even though I was not Catholic, I grew up going to a small Catholic elementary school, finding solace in the stories of Jesus. My parents divorced when I was very young, and when I was nine years old, my father began dating a Jewish woman. She eventually became my stepmother and my father converted to Judaism, giving me my first true exposure to a religion outside of Christianity. As a teenager, I attended a Jesuit high school where four years of religious study was required, one of those years being the study of world religions. Finally, in college, I took another course in world religious studies where I was introduced to The World’s Religions by Huston Smith and Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt.

As I met different people, from different religious backgrounds, while studying the various world’s religions, I couldn’t help but wonder which of these religions was the “correct” religion. Fortunately, actions speak louder than words, and while I was meeting these people, I became more focused on the human interaction I experienced versus the religious rule. I was less interested in what I was supposed to believe and more interested in how I felt.

When I was first introduced into my stepmother’s Jewish family, I was immediately greeted with open arms by everyone in her family. On the surface, I was so different from them, but I soon realized that it didn’t matter. They included me in everything and made me feel like part of the family. Not only did I see the love between them, but I experienced it and, moreover, was a part of it. It didn’t matter that they were Jewish while I was “some-sort-of-Christian.” At least, it didn’t matter to me.

The more I came to experience kindness from people of various religions, the more I realized that the only thing that really mattered was love. Furthermore, when you study these religions, at their core, there is one principle that stands out above all others: the golden rule. They all teach, one way or another, that you should treat others the way you want to be treated. For me, treating others with love and kindness, regardless of what religion they practice, became imperative.

Given my dreams of this man, who preached that we are all from the same light and implored on me to forgive even when forgiveness was not being asked, Samuel, or “God has heard,” seemed like the perfect name. Thus, Samuel and I had established our friendship and the stage was set for the next round of dreams and life experiences that would ultimately result in The Gift of Samuel.