Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
A woman I know from the PTA recently suffered a painful financial setback. To help make ends meet, she’s begun preparing jams and jellies, which she sells to friends and neighbors. Since I want to help her, I’ve been buying some of her things. But having been in this woman’s home and seen how unhygienic her kitchen is, I would never eat anything that’d been prepared there. Instead I throw out whatever I buy once I get home. When a friend happened to see me do this, she was horrified. She said that I should just give the woman money if I’m not going to eat what I paid for — that throwing out the food is unconscionably wasteful. Could she be right?
— Rachel, Los Angeles
In a word, no. The woman who suffered the financial misfortune is to be commended for her self-reliance. Your friend should respect her for it, not encourage you to treat her as a charity.
Not that there’d be anything wrong with a group of you chipping in to give the woman a nice gift of cash. That’s what friends are for. But giving the woman a handout at the moment she’s hoping to sell her goods would be patronizing — a show of disrespect for her admirable effort to be self-sufficient. If your friend disapproves of your tossing out the food this woman prepares, you can always give it to your friend to eat.
Dear Jeanne & Leonard:
Long ago, my father gave me a baseball signed by Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. When my son “Eric” was growing up, I promised him that one day it would be his. But since he got married (and that was 25 years ago), Eric has become an increasingly unloving son. Yes, he sends holiday and birthday cards. But on the rare occasions when he visits, he either acts bored or gets angry about something. I don’t think my wife and I have had a pleasant conversation with him in the past 20 years. My question is: Must I honor my promise to leave him that baseball (I know he wants it), or would it be OK to leave the ball to his sister? She doesn’t care about baseball, but she could sell it. While I’d hate to see my father’s prized possession leave the family, I’d rather she have the money than have my undeserving son end up with the ball.
— Yankees Fan, Albany, New York
Your promise to Eric was made with the perfectly reasonable expectation that he would grow up to be a loving son. Since he didn’t, you have no obligation to leave him the baseball — or anything else, not that you asked.
But this doesn’t mean you have to leave your father’s treasure to your daughter. How about giving it to one of his grandchildren, or even to one of his great-nephews or -nieces? Surely there’s a baseball fan among them who’d appreciate the family history associated with the ball. Unless your daughter needs the money, we vote for keeping the heirloom in the family.