“You will never know unless you ask.”

“You will never know unless you ask.”

“You will never know unless you ask.”
~ Marilyn Kaden Fernquist

This quote by my (Tom’s) grandmother has resonated with me all my life.  Even though she has been gone for five years, her words “You will never know unless you ask” continue to be heard in my mind every time I am questioning whether or not a risk is worth taking.  It is my grandmother’s words that inspire me to have the courage to step out and step up in faith and to take advantage of the opportunities that are presented to me.

When my grandmother was 12 years old she needed to help support her grandmother and her younger sister because both of her parent’s had died.  Living in Washington D.C. and knowing that there were government jobs available she indicated on an application that she was 16 years old, the minimum legal age to be hired.  She got the job!  Ultimately, ‘Gram’ went on to have a very successful life and career impacting the lives of many, many people.

It was that spirit of risk-taking and maximizing opportunities that not only enabled her to keep her family together but also inspired and influenced future generations of our family (including myself) to not be afraid to do the same.

 In our lives opportunities arise all the time…opportunities to say ‘I love you’, opportunities to say ‘I’m sorry’, opportunities to offer forgiveness, opportunities to reach out to someone who needs encouragement, opportunities to listen to someone who needs to be heard.  Many times these opportunities require courage because we may be rejected, humiliated, or turned away.  It is risky to go after some of these opportunities, and may not end well.  However, more times than not, each risk leads to greater satisfaction and greater understanding and greater connection.

In our years as pastors and counselors there have been many instances where we have felt compelled to contact someone, to visit someone, to listen to someone, and to ask someone if they need to talk about a burden weighing on their hearts.  Invariably, it was well worth the risk to reach out to them for in the asking, it gave permission for others to share and to unburden themselves of their fears and anxieties.

Our family has many stories-some humorous, some serious-about my grandmother living out her philosophy: ‘You will never know unless you ask.’  One story, both humorous and serious, is about the time when my grandmother was out to eat at a fancy restaurant and needed to use the restroom.  As she was in one of the bathroom stalls, Gram heard what sounded like another woman choking.  Gram called out to the woman, “If you are choking, bang on the counter top!”  That’s exactly what the woman did.  She started banging furiously.  Gram realized that indeed she was choking and quickly ran out of the stall with her pants around her ankles; she then grabbed the woman and immediately started performing the Heimlich maneuver, dislodging an obstacle from the woman’s throat.  Gram saved her life and calmly went back to her ‘business’.  Had she not taken the risk, and asked, the woman very well could have lost her life.

We never know what good can happen when we respond to the calls within us and around us.  The calls of people who need to be heard, the calls of people who need to be affirmed, the calls of people who need to be encouraged, the calls of people who need to be forgiven, the calls of people who need to laugh, the calls of people who need to be loved.

“You will never know unless you ask.”


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