For the Asking

I was hungry.

In a little grocery store near the conference I was at, I found cottage cheese and lemonade.

I got to the checkout just before a tall man buying a can of Coke. I put a divider between my food and his soda. As I took out my wallet, I saw a yellow sign taped to the cash register: “$10 minimum for credit cards.”

I had cash. I also had other plans for that cash. My conference had a little book of big ideas for sale and payment was cash-only. But I was hungry and I’d read the yellow sign. I paid with cash.

While the cashier bagged my food, the tall man behind me pointed at the “$10 minimum” sign and asked, “Is that true?”

The cashier shook his head and said, “We try to be accommodating.” The man paid for his can of soda with a credit card.

The only difference between me and that man is that he asked and I didn’t. He kept his cash and I lost mine and the little book of big ideas.

There are larger things I haven’t asked for. But all my unasks – big or small – have the same motivation: fear. Fear of looking demanding or needy, of rejection, of being bruised if I don’t get what I hope for.

But fear’s a cheap motivation to live on.

It might hurt if we get rebuffed, but it won’t destroy us. What can destroy us is living a life without asking, a life where our fears surpass our hopes. Because an ask is just hope with a question mark.

Each day, we have unlimited chances to ask – to pay with a card, to get advice, a better seat, a discount, a raise, a date.

There will be plenty of no’s. But as author Sara Laschever and Professor Linda Babcock put it, “If you never hear no, you’re not asking enough.”

I ate my cottage cheese and I drank my lemonade. I went back to the conference and I asked to buy the little book of big ideas with a credit card. They said no, but that I could buy it with a card at the bookstore around the corner.

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