If You Don’t Ask, You Don’t Get

I don’t go crazy over celebrities.

You could tell me that the world’s biggest star was right across the street and I would still stay home. So when my sister asked me to take her on Friday to the groundbreaking ceremony for the new Wahlburgers in St. Charles, Illinois, I was less than thrilled.

But Trish is not one to be shut down when she has an idea. My 58-year-old sister with Down syndrome has spent her entire life asking for whatever seems reasonable to her, even when it’s completely unrealistic to others. It was obvious to her that she should be at this event because she loves Donnie Wahlberg, New Kids on the Block and the television show Bluebloods. She would certainly be the most important attendee. I didn’t have a stronger reason for not going, so off we went.

Once there, it was obvious that despite the crowd, there was a very good chance we would be in close proximity to Donnie and his brother/business partner Paul. I was getting excited and wasn’t sure why. At one point Paul came near to grab something from a table, and I hollered out to ask if I could take a photo of him with Trish. He kindly obliged.

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Trish seized the opportunity to tell him she wanted to work at the restaurant when it opened. Over the course of two to three minutes (an eternity for a celebrity whose name is being shouted by hundreds), she detailed her qualifications. When she said she could wash tables and sweep floors, he joked, “Well if you do all of that, what am I going to do?”

Realizing she was not going to take “No” for an answer, he called over two women who took down her name and address, saying they would send her an application. Trish proceeded to convince these women as well that she should be hired. We then went back behind the makeshift barricade to wait for a drive-by selfie with Donnie.

I watched Paul talk to the two women, look in our direction and speak to another man with a Wahlburgers jacket. I knew something was happening. This man (the general manager I believe) stepped over to shake Trish’s hand and announce that he had the authority to designate her as their first new hire for this location. Cameras were rolling to capture the moment for potential use on their reality series, Wahlburgers.

Soon Donnie made his rounds and came near Trish. I yelled out that she was their first hire. He went to congratulate her with a handshake, but she grabbed him for a hug. She was not going to miss out on a hug from Donnie.

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To say we were amazed and grateful is an understatement. We were thanking God all the way home for these people, and spent the rest of the day telling the tale online and off.

Who is the disabled one?

In bed that night, something struck me about my relationship with my sister. When you grow up with a developmentally-disabled sibling (and I have two), it’s difficult to understand why they act differently. Especially when you’re young and you just want them to conform so that you’re not embarrassed in front of others.

Trish has always pushed the envelope on this. There have been hundreds of arguments about why she couldn’t, and we couldn’t, do whatever she wanted. Even as an adult she insists on going to the Fourth of July parade to get candy (much to the dismay of the children around her). She has never missed trick-or-treating, regardless of whether people are kind to her or not.

Since a junior high visit to a fire station, she has been enamored of firefighters and paramedics. She made sure to meet them all during her 37-year career at a local hospital, and would call them and send cards to them and their families.

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I’ve winced when I’ve heard her ask a new firefighter for his address. I’ve chided her for getting in the way of kids trying to get their share of parade candy. I’ve been impatient when she doesn’t understand there isn’t enough money to buy all that she wants.  Sometimes I could fulfill her endless requests and other times I couldn’t. When she was shut down by one sibling, she would call the next until she got what she wanted or reached the end of the line.

It has taken me decades to realize a few important things:

  • Her “ask” was completely reasonable to her–I was the one who was unreasonable.
  • My “No” was always about me and whether I would be put out or embarrassed.
  • Her relentless pursuit for things that matter to her has made her fearless and successful.
  • I need to be more like her, not the other way around.

I realize now that my sister Trish very often gets what is important to her because she believes she can get to “Yes” if she just keeps at it. While this can’t be true in every situation, it begs two questions: Do I believe in my dream enough and will it change my life enough that I’m willing to go for it? Do I just need to set fear aside and ask? I seemed to be okay entreating celebrities to do things for my sister, but I can clam up when it comes to asking for myself.

So often when I’ve said, “I can’t, Trish”, she will respond with a twinkle in her eye, “Yes, you can”. It’s that “Yes, you can” that is resounding in my thoughts after seeing what she pulled off on Friday. She got a job working for the most famous guy in town–an internationally-known singer/actor/entrepreneur. All because she thought she had every right to expect success.

And so do I. So do you. Life is too short to be afraid to ask.

[I am adding this story, and more like it to my new blog at positivelygoodnews.com]