In my most recent novel, Anahuac, Reverend Randall Clay, radio evangelist extraordinaire, fervently asks, “Do you have what you need?”
Reverend Clay believes the answer to his prayers involves his listeners writing a check to keep the Reverend Randall Clay Prayer Hour on the air. Did God tell him that Sarita Jo Franklin was listening to his voice over nine hundred miles away, or was it just a wild dart that hit its mark? Sarita Jo thought that making a donation to the “Prayer Hour” was just what she needed. Her reasons for her gift may be different than what you might imagine. If you chose to read Anahuac, you can draw your own conclusion. I’m writing novels these days that I hope make you ask questions about the characters’ motivations and about your own.
The answer to the question “What do I need?” is as varied as the number of people on the face of the earth. It is surprising how many times our troubles start when the needs of our loved ones or co-workers don’t jive with ours. We learn quickly in this world to negotiate with others for what we think we need. My mother claimed that as a two year old, I would quickly eat my ice cream and look at her with doleful eyes and say, “You don’t want all of your ice cream?” Was young William genuinely interested in his mother’s needs or simply practicing his skills to become a radio evangelist? The preceding example needs no deep analysis, but in my case I didn’t go into radio religion, although some might say that becoming a lawyer was pretty close.
In 1986, Robert Fulgrum wrote a book called, All I Needed to Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Fulgrum’s hypothesis was that things like sharing, being kind to one another and cleaning up after ourselves would be an excellent way for adults to act, not just kindergarteners. I suspect that one of the biggest blunders we make is to hide our needs from each other. No one around you can divine your needs, unless perhaps they are Reverend Clay. The bottom line of this is best summed up in something I heard years ago and has stuck with me. On first hearing I thought the statement was ludicrous. In my more mature years I have come to embrace it, but still struggle to practice it.
Ask for what you want (need), listen to the answer and celebrate the noes.
I encourage you to take some time to digest this statement that might seem crazy to many of you. I can hear myself long ago saying, “But I don’t want to be told no.” Many times when my life becomes complicated, I can trace it back to my failure to communicate my perceived needs. Breezing through life with illusions that others share your needs is a prescription for conflict and disappointment. Being told “no” frees you to see the world as it exists, not as you wish it were. Staying in the moment is indeed hard when the “moment” is painful. The alternative is even more painful. Now my needs are that you to go reread the statement again. I promise you it might help you.