Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: We have old friends who have enjoyed life for most of their marriage. They traveled, socialized, attended many events and were always looking forward to something. Lately, however, it is breaking our hearts to see that they have given in to physical ailments and they have now stopped socializing, traveling and essentially remain in their house for most of the day. We can see the gradual deterioration in the quality of their lives, but we are unable to help them. Is there any way we can help them without appearing to interfere?

Concerned Friends

DEAR CONCERNED: You are not powerless. In fact, at this stage of your friends' lives, you are extremely powerful. Your presence in their living room visiting with them could make a bigger impact on them now than it did back when they were your running buddies.

Please, attend to them. Do not judge them for "giving in" to physical ailments. Love them as they are and adjust your perceptions in order to enjoy their company now. Offer practical help: driving, shopping, cleaning and home maintenance.

Too often, friends and family members stay away from older or infirm loved ones at the very time they need so much. Of course, it is very difficult to see loved ones change and start to fail, but my theory about this is that others' infirmities make all of us anxious about our own lives. So, deal with it.

If you can show up for your friends, you will not only continue to honor your long friendship by bearing witness to them now, but you will receive a lot in return. This is the real "heavy lift" of friendship. I hope you're up to the challenge.

DEAR AMY: We recently had some dear friends stay with us for the weekend. We had a wonderful time with them. We fed them, even (due to some lost luggage) clothed them, etc. and they in turn treated us to a couple of meals. After they returned home, we discovered that they had used some sort of product which bleached both sets of guest hand towels and bath towels to the extent that we need to replace them. (The stains are very obvious, but we don't think our friends would have ignored this if they had noticed.) My husband thinks we should ask them to cover the cost or at least split it, as it goes beyond typical guest expenses; I am less inclined to do so, chalking it up to part of the business of having guests (though I certainly wouldn't want to replace my towels on a regular basis when I have guests). So I am writing you for your opinion. Should houseguests pay for damages they (presumably unknowingly) incur, or are such costs just part of the "cost" of hosting? Who should pay for new towels?

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Hostess with the Mostest

DEAR HOSTESS: I think your household should absorb the cost of replacing your towels. Isn't hosting and guesting really a long-range exchange of expenses and inconvenience, all in service of a long and important relationship? If you choose NOT to approach your friends about this, make sure you really and truly drop it. Staying silent but judging them or seething about it is not good for your friendship.

DEAR AMY: The writer "Perplexed" states that she is a professional in the same office as "Mary" and "Sue." Mary was secretly keeping tabs on "Sue's" lateness, etc. Perplexed should report to management or HR what she sees as a potential hostile work environment for Sue. She should not speak with Sue about the issue directly. Management should be made aware of Mary's behavior and take steps to ensure that Sue is not being harassed and to inform Mary that her behavior is unacceptable.

Retired HR

DEAR RETIRED: I understand your perspective. But wouldn't it be easier for "Perplexed" to simply say to "Sue, hey, FYI. Mary's keeping tabs on you. You might want to work on your lateness." Then if Sue has an issue with the dynamic, SHE can report it to HR.