Just Three Questions...

Many years ago, back when I was becoming me and leaving the scared girl behind, I learned that if I asked three questions before making a statement, I had time to actually think about my statement, and my words were more on target.

Way back then, when my hair was brown, my eyes bagless, and my desire to learn about people was boundless. I sold cars. It was easy to ask customers what they were driving and what they wanted to drive, but the real beauty of the sale happened when I asked the third question — how they wanted to feel in their new ride. Was it safe? Did they want it to feel like success? Or maybe feel a little thrifty?  Everyone knew what they wanted, all I had to do was give them room to talk. Then, I would ask them to tell me more about that feeling, and before you knew it, they had keys, I had a commission and everyone was smiling. Well, everyone except Tim, whom I outsold every month, but that’s a different story.

As I grew and looked out at the world through the eyes of success, I started asking different questions.  Questions like: How this could be happening in our city? Who was going to do something about it? What could be done?


How could this be happening in our city? Who was going to do something about it? What could be done?

The first time I asked these questions, I found that no one was going to do anything unless I buttoned up my courage and took a stand, so I did. Standing up meant I received threats on my windows and my life. I was unable to dodge the ugly stares of unhappy neighbors as a Superfund site changed our neighborhood (It changed for the better, eventually).

After that grand adventure, I decided I would do as my parents taught me. I would keep my hands inside the ride, mind my manners and not ask too many questions. I would, I promised myself and my family, keep my nose out of other people’s problems.

That is where the trouble lies. Other people’s problems are often our problems. I am not talking about breakups and failed businesses; those really aren’t our concern. But, if we are to be a polite society, a community that thrives for all, not just some, we must ask the questions: What should be done? What can I do? What can we do? How can I help? If we don’t ask those questions, nothing is going to change.

Each time I have asked those questions, each time I have ended up on a board of directors, taking food to the hungry, or with projects like the Facebook page “I’ll Help” — Billings, which serves foster children and others in need, I have given less than I received, and I have learned lessons I didn’t plan to learn, like how very hard it is to say, “I need help” and how very beautiful it is when someone says, “I’ll help.” I have also had moments of tearing my hair out, screaming, “What was I thinking?”  or “This is the last time!”

And yet, you and I both know it won’t be the last time.

You and I both know that there are people who need what we have to give. Love. Money. Time. Wisdom. We have something another person is praying for right now. Think about that: you are an answer to a prayer. All you have to do is give what you have to give.

You are an answer to a prayer. All you have to do is give what you have to give.

When I read articles about human trafficking, children in foster care, or families living without beds, I know I cannot help in every situation, that I do not have the skills, the resources, or the heart to help every person, but this is what I know — I can do something.

Now, when I am compelled to help, my three questions take on a different lens. I ask myself, Who do I know that is already helping, and how I can support them? In what capacity do I want to give?  Is it my time, my money, my name, or something else?  Then I ask the most important question of all: How will I feel if I do nothing?

It might surprise you to know that the answer to that last question is not always negative.  Sometimes I know that if I do nothing, someone else gets to do something. If I take on every single project, hog the ball, if you will, who won’t get to play? Sometimes, I feel peace knowing that I am going to say no because I said yes to something else.

As women, we love to gather, to fix, to nurture and grow. We love to make a difference. That is why we need to ask more questions of ourselves, and our projects. We need to know that what we have to give, be it a blanket or a building, will make a difference.

I am here to tell you, it will.

I grew up in a small town, in a small house, with a big family.  We had laughter, but what I really wanted was more toys, like the giant basket of Easter toys that was on display in the grocery store. Imagine my glee when that basket was delivered to our door by the grocer himself. He knew our situation because grocers know everything in a town that size.

That basket did more than change our Easter and give us new toys to fight about. It taught me that sometimes you give what you have, and that is more than enough. It taught me to expect miracles, and when I can, to make sure those miracles happen.  I didn’t question it, I just accepted it, and have done my best to pass on that feeling.

As my hair was changing from brown to gray, I learned, more than once, that none of us can do everything, but if we all did something, well, that would make all the difference in the world. So, I have three questions for you:

What needs to be done?  How can you help?  What could we do, together, if we really tried?



More from YVW