Be careful with your generosity

I deeply care about my best friend, “James.” He is the oldest of eight children, and they live in a very cramped, worn-out trailer home.

Dear Annie: I deeply care about my best friend, “James.”

He is the oldest of eight children, and they live in a very cramped, worn-out trailer home.

James is the first in the family to go to college and works to support himself. He is kind-hearted and selfless, and has taught me to think about others in need.

James has never asked me for money, but it breaks my heart to see him suffer. So I help out by paying some of his bills, buying food, etc., even giving him a little extra so he can have fun with his friends. I love seeing him happy.

The problem is my mother. Mom’s name is on my bank account, and when she saw the last balance, she became angry and insisted I stop giving James money.

She worries that my friends all take advantage of me. I don’t think this is the time to be selfish. I’m pretty well-off compared to James, who cannot thank me enough. I am getting a grant for college, which will be sufficient for tuition, rent and extras. I also will have a job in the fall, so my finances are pretty secure.

Mom is out of town, and I gave James more money. She’s coming back this week and will see the latest bank statement.

I’m dreading it because I know she will be furious. I want my mother to accept my choices. What should I say to her? — Feeling Guilty

Dear Feeling Guilty: You sound like a sweet, caring friend, but be careful how much you help James, if only because it teaches him to rely on others for his financial solvency.

It’s OK to occasionally treat him to a meal or even pay a utility bill if it means his electricity would otherwise be shut off, but only if you can afford it on your own.

Open your own bank account so Mom stops seeing the statements, and then prove that you can manage your money responsibly.

She will respect your choices when she sees that you are making good ones.

Dear Annie: Why is it that so many guests either don’t know what RSVP means or respond affirmatively and then don’t show up?

My daughter planned a lovely wedding.

Thirteen guests didn’t show, and we had to pay for their meals. One couple played golf instead, and another decided to attend a shuffleboard tournament. Another guest showed up without the date she insisted she’d be bringing.

Either these people are ignorant about the costs of no-shows or they don’t care.

If you RSVP for an event and can’t make it, for heaven’s sake, call and say so. — Upset in Michigan

Dear Michigan: We’re with you. Too many people think “RSVP” means respond if you feel like it.

Anyone who has had to pay for no-shows understands that it is simple consideration to tell your hosts whether you are coming or not, and then keep your word.

Dear Annie: In response to “Not Lazy and Married to Her Son,” I, too, take over when I visit my son and daughter-in-law.

Every year, I use my one-week vacation to do all the housework, washing and cooking and take care of their five children in order to give my daughter-in-law a break.

My own mother-in-law would take my children one weekend a month to give her son and me some time alone. I passed this along to my daughter-in-law, and I know it has made a lasting bond between us.


Dear Pitt.: Your thoughtfulness and your daughter-in-law’s appreciation have created a solid relationship for the two of you and wonderful memories for your grandchildren. How lovely!

Annie’s Mailbox is written by Kathy Mitchell and Marcy Sugar, longtime editors of the Ann Landers column. Please e-mail your questions to, or write to: Annie’s Mailbox, P.O. Box 118190, Chicago, IL 60611.

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