Ask Amy Amy Dickinson, Ask Amy

Amy Dickinson is a general advice columnist.

DEAR AMY: My boyfriend and I recently went to a white elephant gift exchange party. One of the “gifts” offered for exchange was two live baby chicks! I noticed a few puzzled looks when I looked around the room, but most of the people there seemed to think this was hilarious. Even my boyfriend thought it was funny. Who brings live animals to a white elephant party? We have been invited to another white elephant party with a different group of friends, and my boyfriend wants to take two live baby chicks! I said absolutely not. I think that giving live animals is not right at all. He disagrees. He thinks it will be funny. I told him to have fun, and I wouldn’t be going. He is not happy with my decision. Am I in the minority here? I am not a huge animal rights activist, but I do value life. I’m curious about what you think? — Puzzled

DEAR PUZZLED: “White elephant” and “Yankee swap” re-gifting parties are fun ways to round out the holiday giving season.

However, giving live animals away in this context, where people are drinking and competing over who can unload the worst gift, is despicable.

This is in extremely poor taste, potentially cruel and quite immature. Plus — not funny. Not at all.

So, yes, you are right to discourage this and also to stay home.

DEAR AMY: I work at a health food store. A couple years ago, a classmate of mine from high school (not a friend) stopped into the store seeking advice because she recently discovered she has many food allergies.

This is a regular occurrence in my job, and I’m happy to steer people in the right direction for their needs. Then this woman started popping up in other areas in my life (we have mutual friends and interests).

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All this would be fine except for how I somehow have become her own personal Google. When she has a question about something, anything remotely related to my job, our social scene/events or any random question she thinks I would know the answer to, she seeks me out.

This is flattering to some extent, but I’m not a doctor or nutritionist, and it has become too much, especially when we run into each other out at a social occasion and she corners me with questions. When I let a snarky comment escape about all the resources available to her if she only did an Internet search instead of asking me in a Facebook message, she let me know that it was hurtful.

I apologized and blamed it on being tipsy (I wasn’t).

Her most recent barrage sounded so helpless that I don’t know how she’s made it this far in life. I feel so mean. I’m not usually so unwilling to help people, but she’s using up too much of my good nature. I’m not sure how to cut this off nicely.

— Not Her Guru

DEAR NOT: Those rare times when I feel cornered by someone soliciting advice, I will say, ”Hey, that would be a great question for my column. Why don’t you send it to me?”

For questions related to your work, the equivalent for you might be to say, ”Next time you pop into the shop I’d be happy to try to help you with that.”

This may be a clunky pitch for a friendship with you, but it sounds as if you’re not interested.

If she is sending you Facebook messages asking questions you don’t wish to answer, you can choose not to reply. She might then turn to the larger Facebook community to crowdsource her many questions, or actually go to the trouble of looking things up on her own.

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DEAR AMY: You asked readers to share their literacy stories. Our little inner-city church, Trinity Lutheran in Omaha, Neb., has a reading program with six elementary schools. We read to every second-grade class once a month and give each child a book to keep every month. That’s nine books by the end of the year. This is the first book many of these children have ever received.

This program is so rewarding to us as readers. We hope these children will learn to love reading and stay in school until graduation. We can always use monetary donations to help us purchase these books. — Peg

DEAR PEG: Thank you for putting books into the hands of children.