Don’t Take No For An Answer

This story is from Napoleon Hill’s “Think and Grow Rich“, written in 1937.

One afternoon, Mr Darby was helping his uncle grind wheat in an old-fashioned mill. The uncle operated a large farm on which a number of share-crop farmers lived. Quietly, the door was opened, and a young black girl, the daughter of a tenant, walked in and took her place near the door.

The uncle looked up, saw the child, and barked at her roughly, “What do you want?”

Meekly, the child replied, “My mama say send her fifty cents.”

“I’ll not do it,” the uncle retorted, “now you run on home.”

“Yes sir,” the child replied, but she did not move.

The uncle went ahead with his work, so busily engaged that he did not pay enough attention to the child to observe that she did not leave. When he looked up and saw her still standing there, he yelled at her, “I told you to go on home! Now go, or I’ll take a switch to you.”

The little girl said, “Yes sir,” but she did not budge.

The uncle dropped a sack of grain he was about to pour into the mill hopper, picked up a barrel stave, and started toward the child with an expression on his face that indicated trouble.

Mr Darby held his breath. He was certain he was about to witness an assault. He knew his uncle had a fierce temper.

When the uncle reached the spot where the child was standing, she quickly stepped forward one step, looked up into his eyes, and screamed at the top of her shrill voice, “My mama’s gotta have that fifty cents!”

The uncle stopped, looked at her for a minute, then slowly laid the barrel stave on the floor, put his hand in his pocket, took out a half dollar and gave it to her.

The child took the money and slowly backed toward the door, never taking her eyes off the man whom she had just conquered. After she had gone, the uncle sat down on a box and looked out the window into space for more than ten minutes. He was pondering, with awe, the whipping he had just taken.

Mr Darby too was doing some thinking. That was the first time in all his experience that he had seen a black child deliberately master an adult white person, (remember this is 1937). How did she do it? What happened to his uncle that caused him to lose his fierceness and become as docile as a lamb?

One Response to Don’t Take No For An Answer

  • COMMENTS:
    michelle said…
    maybe he didn’t really want to harm a child. maybe she knew that whatever would happen to her if she returned without the fifty cents was worse than anything the man could do to her. maybe she was just that sort of protective small woman that will not take no for an answer. Yet she never lost respect for him until he came towards her to hurt her. and then, she didn’t lose respect, she made it clear he could kill her but her mom still needed that fifty cents. she stood up to him. most of the time bullies do not know what to do if someone stands up to them, especially if they are old bullies and it is a habit and they forget what kind of physical behaviour they had to inflict on people that made them a bully in the first place. after that, reputation is everything and people just stop standing up to them. i wonder what the fifty cents was for? and wonder if that woman grew up to be someone we know of?

    2:44 PM
    shirley said…
    Here’s what I think. I think that this is the same thing that happens in the wild when a lion attacks a zebra and the zebra fights back with an unexpected ferocity – and the lion backs off, or when a mugger tries to grab a little old ladies purse and she starts hiting him with it and he runs away.

    It’s when the intensity of purpose is so strong, that nothing can deter it. She was just flat out stronger than he was – mentally.

    And I too wondered what kind of a woman she grew up to be, and what the fifty cents was for, and what would have happened had she returned home without it.

    What I get from this, is that when I really really want something – and I am insistent – and not giving up – and ferocious in my intention – it will inevitably be mine.

    And what I also get from this story is that just because someone says no, it doesn’t mean that’s their final answer.

    How this has any practical application to my life right now, I have no idea. But the story fascinates me, so maybe it will come clear how I can benefit from it.

    4:15 PM
    Daniel B. said…
    I think that like most small children they don’t understand or really no defeat. I know that even to this day if my mother told me to get her fifty cents I’d get it!!!! Maybe I should tell her to tell me to get rich! It truely is sad all that we lose becoming adults. When we are children, most of us, we don’t ever think of things being impossible. We think and believe we can be whatever we want to be, that we can do whatever we want to do and that is that. WE may understand it might be hard but not impossible but as we grow it is a poison injected into our systems this belief of impossibility. Actually as I write this at 5:30Am I am getting pissed off. Maybe Jesus was right we need to be as little children. WE need to regain our power, our belief in ourselves and the wonders of a giving universe

    5:41 AM
    shirley said…
    Daniel, I think you are right. Absolutely right, and now as I am thinking about it, I can see how this happens.

    Not long ago I was in a store with my granddaughter. She wanted me to buy her something, and I said, “But honey, we can’t. I don’t have enough money.” and she said, “So let’s get some.” and I said, “Ok, from where?” and she said, “From the bank, duh!” And I said, “We can’t get money from the bank unless we already have money there that belongs to us.” And she started to argue with me, and I said, “I’m sorry honey, we just can’t get that because we just can’t afford it.”

    Notice all the times I said “can’t”? What if I would have said, “Yeah, lets buy that just as soon as we have some extra money, ok?” and then she might have asked me when, and I might have said, “Maybe next week, maybe next year. who knows what might happen between now and then. We might even win the lottery!”

    Wouldn’t that have been so much better for her and for me?

    11:51 AM

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