Ask Not, Have Not
As I was walking into a neighborhood grocery store this week, I was stopped by a man seated on an upside down milk crate next to the door. He politely asked if I would buy him a small container of liquid Tide laundry detergent. Living in the city, it is not unusual to be asked for money or food. It happens every single day. But this man caught my attention. His request was so very specific. He gave me a brand name, he specified liquid over powder and he even told me the size. It was clear he thought about the request before he spoke. Had he asked for $5, which is what the detergent cost, I wouldn’t have thought twice. I might have said “hello” and “sorry,” but that’s about it.
I was there to pick up a snack for my son’s kindergarten class. I could have snagged some fruit in the produce section and headed right to check out. But I swung by the aisle with household cleaners and picked up the bottle of detergent he wanted. Why was I willing to spend the $5 knowing I would never hand over a five dollar bill? I thought about this for a minute while the cashier scanned four pounds of red seedless grapes.
The answer is simple: his request was direct, humble and precise. He knew exactly what he wanted. How can we expect to get what we want if we don’t ask for it explicitly? Maybe I am a sap and a fool. Perhaps he’s going to take that detergent and trade it up for cigarettes or a bottle of whiskey. I don’t know. But I do know that he reminded me of this simple truth. Ask and you shall receive.
Last month, my baby boy turned five. FIVE! I asked what he wanted for his birthday dinner and he was unequivocal in his response: carrots, broccoli, avocado and spaghetti with meatballs. He listed these items in that order. This, from the child who drank nothing but milk and ate only dry cereal for a year of his life. This, from the boy who would rather suck his thumb than eat dinner some nights. I tried not to get too excited for fear of scaring him off, as if he were a delicate bird that had just landed on my arm. He had more instructions. He wanted the carrots cooked “in the oven” and the avocado “with lemon and salt.” Okay, done and done.
Since birthdays come just once a year, I try to go the extra mile by making the cake from scratch or making out-of-the-ordinary class birthday treats (remember this fiasco of a project? I just got a hive thinking about it). I did not make his birthday cake this year. He requested a mint chip ice cream cake roll from a certain ice cream store with a pink and brown logo, so the pressure was on to deliver with the meatballs. I needed to make them from scratch and they had to be good. I should mention that the pressure was coming only from within. No one else really cared as long as the meatballs were tasty.
Guess what? They were pretty easy to make. You can get my recipe for classic meatballs here. Next time, I’m going to make a double batch and freeze half for a snowy day. If you’d like to try this, I recommend freezing them raw once you’ve formed them into balls. Place them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, then freeze until set. You can transfer them to a labeled plastic zip top bag from there. Don’t forget to label it with the date and the contents. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve told myself I’m going to remember what’s in the bag and then months later, I’m brushing away ice crystals with a scrunched up nose wondering “what is that?”
I have much to learn from the man on the street and my kindergartener. Before I peel out of here – and you knew this was coming, right? – I have a request of my own. I want to hear from you. I know you are out there, gentle reader, but I long for a sign of life. Just a little evidence that the numbers on the screen correspond to actual people. I know you are looking. Yes, YOU! Down below this post, there is a comment box. Don’t be afraid of the math question. Any second grader can check your work.
Ready? In that box, tell me one thing you were nervous to ask for and surprised to get. It could be a promotion, a discount on a purchase or something as small and simple as lick from your child’s cone.
P.S. Can’t think of a request you want to share? We can connect in other ways. You can always send me a note at info [at] weeklygreens dot com. You can also join me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter and say hello there! I always love to hear from you.