DEAR AMY: Over the past year and a half, we have become friends with a family who moved in next door. Because of medical issues in their household, I have brought over a dinner for them once a week. We have directly contributed financially to their son, who is in college. Although they have a professional background, they are immigrants (they moved to this country 15 years ago) and now have low-paying jobs. My husband and I are concerned that they will soon lose at least some of their income, due to the COVID-19 mandates. We would like to help them financially, perhaps by paying part of their rent, or by giving them grocery credit cards. They have graciously accepted the meals and gifts for their younger kids, but it seems awkward to just give people money. It seems sneaky and dishonest to pay the landlord and have him say he lowered the rent or something. How can we best approach this without offending their pride?
DEAR CARING: First of all, thank you. You (and so many others during this challenging time) are helping to keep our faith in humanity alive.
The way to help your friends now is to continue to treat them the way you have all along: As adults who are capable of making choices, including gracefully accepting kindness. The COVID-19 pandemic is — in some respects — a great equalizer. Giving AND receiving: We have to get through this together. You are right: Do not subsidize their rent and then deceive them.
I suggest that you offer to walk them through ways that they can get through this, including helping them to apply for unemployment (if applicable), and exploring whether they (along with millions of others) will receive an additional government subsidy.
They should be made aware that there is a social safety net in place to help them get through this rough period. If for any reason they are not eligible for these subsidies, explain that their landlord might be willing to reduce their rent over the next few months. It sounds as if you know their landlord, so you could offer to help them to communicate to discuss their rent. Depending on where you live, there will be a moratorium on evictions, and renters who miss payments will be granted interest-free extensions on paying back rent.
Additionally — yes — you could give them gift cards from whatever grocery store they use. Say, "We care so much about you and the kids; we hope you'll let us help out for the next few months." Because they know and trust you, they will know that you are happy to help. Mutual expressions of charity and kindness toward one another is the very essence of friendship.
A quote attributed to Ronald Reagan applies here: "We can't help everyone, but everyone can help someone."
DEAR AMY: My brother is going to marry a train wreck! His fiancée, although very physically attractive, is a psycho. Although I don't know her well, it is obvious that her family is trained to walk on eggshells around her. And it is obvious that she doesn't have friends. When one of her bridesmaids backed out, she ranted and bad-mouthed her to everyone. Her other bridesmaid is a cousin (10 years younger) who doesn't really know her. And then, out of the blue, she asked me to be her maid of honor! Amy, I barely know her! Should I tell my brother that I think he's making the worst mistake of his life?
DEAR SISTER: You have already admitted that you barely know your brother's fiancée. Because of this, you should politely decline to be her maid of honor ("I'm sorry, but I feel I don't really know you well enough to accept this honor."). You should also decline to warn your brother off. Doing so would not go well.
DEAR AMY: A woman signing her question "No Thanks" wanted to turn down men of other races who approached her. Being married is hard enough. When one marries someone from a different culture or race, there will be an extra set of problems. I don't blame her. I don't see it as racist. I see it as smart. Marrying someone who is totally opposite than you in religion, politics, how you were raised and lifestyle are all red flags. You get my drift. If you want to save the world, go for it. I wouldn't.
DEAR GRACE: Race does not determine the values you mention.