Ask Not, Have Not

September 12, 201316 Comments

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.

16 responses to “Ask Not, Have Not”

  1. Didi says:

    Hey alicia! I’m alive 🙂 I actually am such a fan of Molly Wizenberg (she’s my go to author when I find myself uninspired) and I wanted to connect with her in some way. After some random tweets, she sent me a nice handwritten card. I asked the universe (in my head) and I got it! It was such a fan girl moment!

    • Alicia says:

      Hi Didi! So nice to hear from you. Yes, Molly’s work is lovely, isn’t it? I think you bring up a very good point. Sometimes the ask doesn’t have to be out loud to anyone in particular! It’s enough to just state that you want it and take the steps to get it. The universe hears the voices in your head! I love this.

  2. Queen Bee says:

    I think I was in about the 5th grade and I asked for a dummy for Cristmas; I wanted to be a ventriloquist. My Dad kept saying he had enough dummies around. (We were seven children.) Not only did I get the dummy, but two–Danny O-Day and Jerry Mahoney!

  3. Kellie says:

    Love this site and all the lovely stories! I desperately wanted to get my ears pierced when I was younger, but my parents were absolutely firm in their refusal. Somehow my dad managed to convince my mom that it wasn’t the end of the world, because on my 10th birthday, there was a note on my bedroom door with the poem, “Violets are blue, roses are red, today you are getting two holes in your head. Happy birthday, love Dad. Go thank Mom.” Best (and funniest) surprise ever. Hope you are well!

    • Alicia says:

      Thanks for your sweet words, Kellie. Weekly Greens loves you right back! 🙂 This story is too adorable. Your parents sound like fantastic people.

  4. Melinda says:

    Alicia, I thoroughly enjoy your blog! Love your writing style and down-to-earth’iness. Thank you for sharing your world and your food.

    In response to your request, I asked for a donation from a local spa for a charity fundraiser recently and I not only received one gift card for a massage, but walked away with a couples’ massage AND a facial. Asking for donations is not in my comfort zone so I was a little nervous. What a coup to walk away with more than I even thought I’d get.

    Keep up the great posts. WE are out here!

    • Alicia says:

      Melinda, thanks for the kind words. I really appreciate it. How wonderful to walk away with even more than you requested! Good for you! It’s so hard to ask, right?

  5. MaryEllen says:

    Love this! Love the blog.

  6. Camille Warmington says:

    Unfortunately, Tide is used as a currency among drug users. There was an article about in the New Yorker.
    Appreciate your generous spirit and love your blog.

    • Alicia says:

      Yes, I now know that thanks to a reader who send me a link to the article! Crazy! Who could believe it? I had suspected maybe a trade for cigarettes or whiskey, which sound like baby formula compared to what it’s really used for – crack! I have a follow up on this which I’ll post this week…stay tuned and thanks for your kind comment.

  7. irina says:

    I can’t think of a story to share off the top of my head, but wanted to let you know that I read your blog regularly and enjoy the recipes!

    • Alicia says:

      Irina, it’s so nice of you to chime in. When I asked for stories, I swear I wasn’t fishing for compliments and love letters. But that’s what has come my way! I won’t lie and say I don’t like it. It’s really nice. After a pretty sleepy summer here, it’s great to be back and to hear from my peeps! I missed you all terribly.

  8. Diana says:

    Love your perspective! I was so nervous to apply to grad school, but when I finally went through with it I was easily welcomed with open arms! Just goes to show; sometimes putting yourself out there is the best things to do.

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