There’s a saying I heard a long time ago, that while I don’t know where it comes from, sums up pretty much how I try to live. It goes like this: “a closed mouth don’t get fed”. I believe it means that in order to get what you need; you have to open your mouth, speak up, and ask for what you want. Think about baby birds. When the mother bird brings worms to the nest, they instinctively open their mouths for her to feed them, and they continue to do this until they’re strong enough to leave and fly away on their own. It’s the same way in life. I’m not talking about being rude or overbearing and demanding, but taking the initiative to change unfavorable situations and conditions.
That saying hit home for me my first year of law school. I was in Cleveland, Ohio, with no family except my young son, and having a hard time grasping the mechanics of writing a passing law exam. As a result, I didn’t make the grades to go into my second year. Okay, so I flunked out. I was devastated and embarrassed to say the least, but I didn’t have time to wallow in self-pity as rent was coming up and we had to eat. When I calmed down enough to reread the dismissal letter, I noticed that I could file an appeal and request a hearing. I filed the paperwork and spent the next few weeks overcoming my shame long enough to go to each of my professors and ask for their help. To my surprise, they were supportive and a few even congratulated me for fighting back. One even wrote me a letter of recommendation. On the day of the hearing, I not only argued for reinstatement, but asked for tutoring as well. I got both. And while I never really mastered the art of writing the perfect exam, I did well enough to graduate and get my degree.
Since then, I’ve applied the saying to all kinds of situations and it’s never failed me. While I may not always have gotten the answer or outcome I wanted, it’s always worked out for the best. Whether its asking God for help, asking for money, or asking for directions, all anyone can do is say “no”; and enough “no’s” eventually lead to the right “yes”. I know that when I open my mouth, I always get fed. This, I believe.
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.