"Excuse me, but which train goes to Yankee Stadium?"
"Does this train go to downtown Manhattan?"
"Will we get arrested for crawling under the subway stalls when they won't accept our tokens?"
"Pardon me, but is this the right line to buy half-price tickets for tonight's plays?"
My step-daughter Nikki, her daughter Amanda and I asked many questions last week as we vacationed in New York City, and even though we had done most of our homework ahead of time -- getting tickets for the Empire State Building, Ground Zero, the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and two plays -- we still found ourselves constantly needing assistance.
When we were lucky enough to find English-speaking locals, they were always willing to help. One went so far as to make phone calls to help us locate a late- night yogurt shop when it was obvious we didn't know which direction we were headed.
There were also times when we should have asked for help but, instead, just assumed we knew what we were doing, like the time we accidentally boarded the wrong subway to go to the Mets game or when we stood in the wrong ferry line, the one headed for Staten Island instead of our intended destination -- the Statue of Liberty.
The most notable incident was when I recognized Reggie Jackson, a famous retired baseball player who once played on the same team as my husband. We were walking outside of our hotel when I spotted him waiting for a cab.
Dave had run into him a few years back and they had a nice visit. Nikki and Amanda encouraged me to introduce myself (and them).
Getting up the nerve, I neared where he was standing.
"Mr. Jackson?" I began.
"Yes," he responded, smiling.
Sweet. I wasn't being a nuisance, after all.
"I'm Patty LaRoche. My husband Dave played on the Yankees with you in the 80s."
He nodded, still smiling, but said nothing, obviously needing his memory refreshed.
I continued. "He was a reliever ... it was several years ago ... you were both on the same team ... the Yankees ... a long time ago ... Dave LaRoche is his name ..."
"Uh, Ma'am, I'm not Reggie Jackson. I'm Jessie Jackson."
There is inadequate space here to list all the bumbling words I stuttered while looking for a hole to fall into, trying to preserve a modicum of what itsy bitsy dignity I had left. My family was no support. I found them behind a pillar, laughing hysterically.
Why I didn't just ask someone if that was Reggie Jackson, why I just assumed I knew who he was, I'll never know. It would certainly have prevented a boat load of embarrassment.
As I sit here in LaGuardia Airport waiting to board my plane home to Kansas, I can't help but reflect on my trip, knowing that this definitely was a week of relying on others. Sometimes Nikki, Amanda and I asked and received answers. Other times we didn't but should have.
Jesus knew the importance of not remaining silent: "Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find."
It's really that simple. We're not speaking to someone who doesn't understand our language or to one who will refuse to help. Instead, we are talking to the One who knows ahead of time just what we need and is eager to respond.
Yet many refuse to ask. They just assume they know the way and so, remain silent. Tragically, for them, there's probably a lot more at stake than a wrong turn or even a little embarrassment.