The day I enrolled in the Valley School, on scholarship, I entered a new world that set me on an entirely new course, just as my father had hoped. Over the next ten years, I got one of the best educations in America, starting with Valley School, then Kiski School, Yale University, and on to Harvard Business School. And it would never have happened if my father hadn't believed that it never hurts to ask.There's a Gospel application to this concept of "ask and ye shall receive." The application is about our need to be more bold, not just in our careers, but in our Church callings, our ministry, our missionary work. Some of us are terrified of asking others for anything, but sometimes it's the kindest and least selfish thing we can do for those we seek to bless. Pride keeps us from asking for the help or participation of others or from inviting others to come unto Christ. Let's drop some of that pride and be more bold in doing what's right.
As I look back on my career, it was the single most important act in my life. Moreover, the lesson I learned from my father's action, like no other, informed all that I have done since.
My father simply couldn't be embarrassed when it came to fulfilling his family's needs. I remember once we were driving down the road to our home when Dad spotted a broken Big Wheel tricycle in someone's trash. He stopped the car, picked it up, and knocked on the door of the home where the discarded toy lay waiting to be picked up.
"I spotted this Big Wheel in your trash," he told the owner. "Do you mind if I take it? I think I can fix it. It would make me feel wonderful to give my son something like this
What guts! Can you imagine such a proud, working-class guy approaching that woman and, essentially, admitting he's so that he'd like to have her garbage?
Oh, but that's not the half of it. Imagine how that woman felt, having been given an opportunity to give such a gift to another person. It surely made her day.
"Of course," she gushed, explaining that her children were grown and that years had passed since the toy had been used.
"You're welcome to the bicycle I have, too. It's nice enough that I just couldn't throw it away..."
So we drove on. I had a "new" Big Wheel to ride and a bike to grow into. She had a smile and a fluttering heart that only benevolence breeds. And Dad had taught me that there is genius, even kindness, in being bold.
Every time I start to set limits to what I can and can't do, or fear starts to creep into my thinking, I remember that Big Wheel tricycle. I remind myself how people with a low tolerance for risk, whose behavior is guided by fear, have a low propensity for success. The memories of those days have stuck with me. My father taught me that the worst anyone can say is no. If they choose not to give their time or their help, it's their loss.
Nothing in my life has created opportunity like a willingness to ask, whatever the situation.
Sometimes real charity requires the courage to ask.