Thank you so much for answering my survey yesterday! (If you didn’t you can go do it now. I’ll wait for you.)

The first topic for today is Southern names. Southern names are no odder than those found in any other place (really — you’re just used to yours), but we do have some special things.

First, a whole lot of girls are named after their daddies. This results not only in all those Sammy Jos, but also in the Ronettes and Carlynns. If you want to meet girls, or even grown women, with names that sound like back-up singers in Motown bands, this is the place to be.

Second, a lot of boys are given romantic names, like Bayard and Meredith.

Then, having saddled their offspring with names like Oswaldene and Lancelot, parents can’t bring themselves to use those names for such sweet little munchkins. This is why you meet so many people around here who are called things like Bootsie and Tay-Tay.

Now, on the subject of favors. Ozarque has been talking about the grammar of favors — that is, the rules in our language for asking and for responding to favors. There have been some startling comments over there, and at the linked discussions, so I would encourage you to go check it out.

In our study group on Wednesday, we were reading this little parable. A man is asked by God to take three rocks in a wagon up a hill. On the way, various people ask him to take along other rocks they need to get up the hill. He agrees, but finds this burdensome. Near the top of the hill, God comes and unloads all the extra rocks and leaves them by the side of the road, saying, “I didn’t ask you to do all that. I only asked you to take those first three.”

Everyone else in the group got from this parable what the author intended. We do things, they said, because no one else will do them. We are burdened by other people’s responsibilities, and we should remove their rocks from our wagons!

I disagreed. It seems to me that the man with the rocks shouldn’t have agreed if he couldn’t do it. Once he had agreed, however, he had to finish it, even if it meant making two trips. I don’t believe that God would have encouraged him to desert those rocks by the side of the road without so much as telling the people that their rocks didn’t get up the hill.

As I say, I had been reading Ozarque’s discussion right before that, so it might have influenced my reaction, but it seems to me that the parable says something instead about favors. Why didn’t the guy just say, “No, I’m sorry, I can’t take those rocks”?

And yet how frequently we take things on grudgingly and fail to follow through! Or take them on grudgingly and do follow through and then resent the asker, when we could simply have declined.

In fact, in the course of the discussion, it became clear that we take on things people don’t even want us to take on. Many of the examples the women mentioned that evening were things that they had not only not been asked to do, but which the rock-givers probably didn’t even want them to do. The mom who took on her son’s smoking, the wife who takes responsibility for her husband’s communication with his parents, the woman who always makes casseroles for the bereaved and resents it even as she gives the impression that it is her job and she would be hurt if someone else did it — these are not people who are overburdened by others.

It is true that I feel overburdened sometimes by the housekeeping, and disagree with my kids’ position that, since I am the only one who wants it done, I should be the only one who has to do it. But apart from this, I think I will be very certain not to take on other people burdens when they don’t ask me to, not to accept offered burdens (requests for favors) when I am not really willing to do them, and not to hold others responsibler for my own inability to say no.