DEAR AMY: Recently we had a heavy snowfall. The next day I called a neighbor to see if he needed a ride to church services. He gratefully accepted. When we approached the church I noticed that he stopped in the vestibule, as if procrastinating in sitting down. I took my seat and minutes later turned around to see him sitting three rows away. After the service, I waited in the parking lot for some time until he finally came up to the car. We chatted on the way home, but once I was alone I realized that he did not want to be seen with me. I’m good enough to talk to, but not good enough to sit next to? Is this socially unacceptable behavior? Shouldn’t people be gracious enough to sit with the person who offered them the transportation? I can’t seem to let it go.
DEAR WEATHER BEATEN: You were kind to offer this ride to your neighbor, but you should not have expected any particular or specific behavior from him, other than an expression of gratitude.
Worshiping is slightly different for everyone. In my little church, we all assume the exact same seats, week after week, year after year. This is not ideal, and your letter is a reminder that when we mix things up, new relationships and connections can be formed.
Many people prefer to sit by themselves during worship. Additionally, your neighbor might have felt too awkward or presumptuous to assume that your offer of a ride was really an offer to share the experience with him. I hope you will forgive his awkward reaction and move forward.
DEAR AMY: I’m in my early 20s. Since we were little kids, two of my cousins and I have been very close. My grandmother baby-sat all of us. We lived five minutes away from each other, rode the school bus together and, when we were teenagers, after the loss of their mother, they spent every night at my house. Recently, another cousin contacted us after seeing a photo of the three of us online. He said he’s sick of feeling left out. We all responded, saying we did not know he felt this way and that we were so close because we were basically raised together. We told him we would want to hang out with him more now and also in the future. He accepted that, but then started saying things like the rest of the family doesn’t ever want him around. We told him this isn’t true and that everyone loves him, and we are sorry that someone told him that because that’s horrible. He then kept responding about how badly he is treated. This conversation continued on and off for three days via text messaging, until finally I told him that it had gone on too long and I would like to end the discussion. He responded with sarcasm and expletives and then blocked all of us on social media. I feel like the entire discussion should have been in person. I don’t want the family broken up. We have always all gotten along and our family gathers very frequently. I love all of my family members, but I don’t feel like I should have to censor my relationships I’ve developed with other family because it may offend someone. I would be willing to forgive and forget just to have peace between us again. Should I feel guilty for forming a closer relationship with my other cousins? How should we resolve this recent falling out?
DEAR COUSIN: You are closer to your cousins because you were raised together, like siblings.
Your other cousin was trying to be honest with you, and that’s a good thing. However, it sounds as if he has let a lifetime of resentment build up, and trying to express and resolve this through text message is simply not possible.
You could relieve your guilt by trying to contact him, perhaps through letter, to say, “I was shocked to learn how excluded you have felt. Thank you for being honest about it. I’d like to have a closer relationship, but we’ll never resolve these things unless we talk about it.”
DEAR AMY: I am shocked at how often couples who are getting married decide to exclude a family member. Family is family, especially during a wedding.
DEAR SHOCKED: Families are complex and challenging. There are definitely legitimate reasons to exclude, but there would probably be less exclusion if people could simply accept that their families are not perfect.