Gather Up Your Courage and Ask



I’d been telling my son some things about dead ends and brick walls, and being humble enough to ask for help. He summarized my thoughts so well.

When we ask for help, it lets others be powerful. — Justin Heckt

I already wrote about buckling up my courage to talk to a self-publisher. That was a beginning, and a good one. It encouraged me to start walking the road toward putting a book out there. But then I needed some things. I tried to open some doors on my own and they remained firmly shut.

When you come from an alcoholic train wreck of a family (or any other version of a train wreck) it can be hard to be the one, again, who needs to receive. It’s so much nicer to be the hero—together, organized, forging her way forward in a red cape.

I’ve developed an aversion for the fakey-fakey help that’s sometimes offered in the name of ministry, the kind that makes you feel like a project. I hate the thought of using people. But that attitude can also turn into pride and a refusal to ask for help.

A long time ago when I was conducting research for my book, I’d had a contact with the tribe that’s in my novel, but now I couldn’t find a way to connect again. I needed an authentic name for one of my characters. The stand-in name I was using sounded like something from Star Wars. It just wasn’t working. I made a few calls and got absolutely no response.

I felt this nudge. Ask.

I’d gone to school with someone from the tribe. I didn’t know him well at all, but we were on Facebook together. At the same time as that nudge, I realized that a person from our former church is a middle school teacher and very interested in multicultural topics.

It took me awhile to contact them. Did I know either of them well enough to ask a favor? No. They both have full lives and busy families. Asking a schoolteacher with two children to read my manuscript right at the beginning of a new school year felt like asking a lot.

I asked.

It took awhile to hear back from both of them. Fine, I thought. I tried! And then I heard back. I got two perfectly huge, jaw dropping, beautiful answers.

John kindly gave me his neighbor’s number. I called her and she was not only willing to help me find a name, she was delightful and informative. I would have been happy with any contact, but she turned out to be the tribe’s story keeper. A major character in my book is the niece of a famous chief. Elaine turned out to be his direct descendent. The stories aren’t just history to her, they are family. She gave me permission to use her name in the book. Zing!

I had chills. All these people I’d been reading about and trying to bring to life have living ancestors wandering around the landscape. Who knew?

Then my teacher friend chose to be delighted rather than daunted when I asked her to read the manuscript. I drove my pile of paper over to her, and she told me her neighbors are reading specialists in the school district. She asked if it would it be ok for them to read it. Would it?!

And finally, I’d been worried about where to put the book on the shelves. Was a for middle school students? Young Adults? It doesn’t fit well under any particular label. I screwed up my courage and asked some questions at a bookstore I love, thinking, “There’s an avalanche of people self-publishing out there. He won’t want anything to do with this.” The man at the counter was amazingly encouraging. He gave me all kinds of good info and then said, “We’ll put your book under ‘Local Authors.’” (And do a reading, and and and …) Problem solved. I could not have imagined that so much help was available. I would never have known if I hadn’t asked. It wasn’t easy to ask, but it was so worth it.

I could still be knocking on (metaphorical and real) doors on my own and getting no answers, or I could be where I am: full of joy over the kindness and capability of others. I’ve begun to feel that the whole thing may just work out, one step at a time, one ask at a time, as I see what others are able to contribute—which seems to be an awful lot.

Families can be a mess, and people can be a mess. I can be a mess! But if I’m willing to be in a posture of receiving that seems to bring all kinds of riches down, all kinds of joy. Not to mention the exact, specific answer to my questions.

What is the next step forward?

To ask.