Giving rather than offering

Earlier this week, I was stuck in a queue on a couch at work, in between two friendly Googlers I’ll call Hanz and Gretel.

Waiting, waiting, waiting, with more waiting to come.  There was a beer and baklava party downstairs, so I thoughtfully (I thought) offered to bring back both H&G some treats.  Both, after a brief pause, smiled and declined.

I went, I saw, I brought back and ate while I continued my waiting with no Godot in sight.  Shortly thereafter, Hanz went downstairs and brought back two plates… one for himself and one, indeed, for Gretel.

Gretel joyously beamed, warmly thanked Hanz, and dug in.

I was puzzled and frustrated, and unceremoniously blurted out, “But… but I offered to bring some up to you just a few minutes ago!”

In between bites, Gretel gave me a kindly but decisive look.

“Yes,” she asserted, “But Hanz actually brought me some.”

*  *  *

I’ve pondered this situation and dialog again and again over the past few days, and I think the lesson learned is a simple but profound one.

Don’t ask, do.

Applies to so many things in life, and often takes little effort but means a lot.


  1. in some situations i agree. But i think that this time they just missed your gentleness. Maybe you struggle to make people like you, and sometimes being liked by everyone is not possible.

  2. Adam your title post sums it up, I think that if you just brought the plate full of treats it would define your character as more caring and thoughtful. Yes, asking is a nice gesture, but as I continue to polish side which considers others, I too think that actually doing something goes much further than just asking.

  3. Let’s say you did bring up some baklava and Gretel had a bad case of indigestion from lunch, the baklava would have been wasted. I don’t believe in wasting food and it would not have been polite to put the baklava back. I think people should just be straightforward with things they want. Life is too complicated otherwise.

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