Just Ask

Five years ago, my friend Janelle and I flew to San Diego for a Storyline Conference that Donald Miller was hosting. I learned and observed things there that I still think about and refer to, it was that powerful and significant.

The strength of the weekend was how Don shared the stage with many other people who have learned to live well and impact their world. People like Bob Goff, Shauna Niequist, Mike Foster, Tricia Lott Williford, and others.

One of the speakers was Jia Jiang, who told us about his experience with Rejection Therapy. His motto was “Just Ask. “ He got into about 100 adventures, like getting a ride in a police car and playing soccer in a stranger’s yard.  (Listen to his TEDx talk here.) The ask that put him on the map was his request at Krispy Kreme for five donuts in the shape of the Olympic symbol.


PC: Jia Jiang

Just ask, he says. Asking for what you want can open up possibilities where you expect to be rejected. Also, there are ways to ask that help to disarm the person you’re asking and equalize the space between you.

The last day of the conference in San Diego, our hotel shuttled us to the venue, Point Loma Nazarene University (a gorgeous destination in itself). But we didn’t know when the evening session would be finished and couldn’t book the shuttle for the evening.

In the cracks of that day, I kept thinking about the dilemma of getting back to the hotel that was over two miles away. In the evening, it was dark and raining, so walking wasn’t an option. I wasn’t worried, but very curious about how we were going to get back.

After the last session, in the line waiting for the restroom, I happened to stand beside a girl I’d talked with in the morning. She’d told me then that she had driven there, and was staying with an aunt. In a crowd of 1,600, what are the odds that I’d bump into the same person twice? I remembered the “Just ask” speech and asked if she could take Janelle and me to the hotel.

Of course! she said. She was glad to help us out, refused payment, wished us the best, and we never saw her again.

I’ve learned “just ask” is a useful motto in many scenarios. Asking is usually something I want to avoid, because it puts me in a needy place. It reveals my dependence. It’s risky because being refused means I was too much or too something else. But if it’s not unreasonable or demanding, asking appeals to the human, soft part of a person who is happy to help.

Does it mean I always get what I ask for?


But I’m collecting adventures too, when I just ask.

Recently I wanted to book an Airbnb in a little town that I’d fallen in love with. I wanted to spend Labor Day weekend there by myself, exploring, reading, and resting. But I waited too long, so the place I really wanted wasn’t available.

I debated about changing my plans, but then felt strongly that I could at least message the owners to ask if they could refer me to someone in their town.

Just ask.

In a couple hours, they responded, saying they’d blocked those days because they’ll be gone, and they prefer not to have first-time guests then. But they’d like to accommodate me because I seem like a sweet person and a fan of their charming village, and what dates do I need the apartment?

We messaged back and forth in a flurry, and in a few hours, they unblocked the dates and I made the booking. They’re going to be gone, and I’ll have the place to myself the whole blessed weekend. I’m excited beyond words.

Just ask.



6 thoughts on “Just Ask

  1. I enjoyed this, because I also do not like to be the needy one asking. I am always afraid they will feel pressured to agree to what I am asking, and I find myself peppering my request with apologies and qualifications. This is because I have more than once found myself in a position of wishing I would have said no to the disarming person. I ended up feeling shanghaied into doing something that benefited them greatly and caused me a lot of struggle because I couldn’t be honest and say, “No, I really cannot bring a last minute dish of gourmet scalloped potatoes to your party instead of a bag of chips.” And so I dashed to the store and cooked potatoes and pushed my children’s school work aside for another day. And then I was annoyed. :D. I do not know how to find the balance, but I like what you wrote. People are usually really nice and want to help.

    • Yes. Women who can’t say no is a thing. Taking advantage of someone is also a thing.
      Somewhere up there in those paragraphs, I qualified the ask as not being unreasonable or demanding. From my distant perspective, I’d suggest your gourmet potatoes scenario was both unreasonable AND demanding. What I’m calling for is a free, open handed request that allows gladness and human kindness to flourish. But… I hear you. Things aren’t always so rosy.

  2. The ending of this post made me so happy, Anita. I hope to hear about your weekend away some day!
    Also. I still regret that I wasn’t able to do that Storyline conference. So delighted God gave you that gift. 🙂

  3. Love this! I have a hard time asking. Not because it makes me feel needy, but because I’m afraid I’ll come across as entitled/not satisfied with what is offered. Hmm. Not sure I can really put it into words. I’ve been around people who always seem to want something better/different (in a not positive way) and I think I react to that. But I do ask sometimes. 🙂 One memory of our Italy trip that I’ll never forget is asking to use a restroom at a pizzeria that was not yet open for the day. We were desperate because there were no public restrooms to be found. They graciously let us use it and we sang “Amazing Grace” for them before we left. 🙂

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