Outdated Tradition?

Dear Annie: I am a baby boomer and appreciate the 20th-century tradition of “rising to the occasion” and taking in meals if a family member is ill or if there has been a death in the family. It is a kind and thoughtful gesture. I am in a club, and one member’s husband was diagnosed with cancer two years ago. At that time, our president assigned each member a time to take a meal to them, staggered by a few days. Our president requested that we share the menu with other club members so there wouldn’t be duplicated meals. The member’s husband recently died, and our president has again requested that we take food to the house. And we are stepping up to the plate and doing so.

This member is financially very well-off. Her husband retired from a career in government, and his retirement income was well over six figures annually. She is a successful Realtor. In 21st-century America, supermarkets have deli departments, and restaurants have takeout options. Home delivery of food is available. I agree that taking food to folks in these circumstances is a kind and gracious act, but I’m wondering whether that’s still what etiquette dictates. — Wondering

Dear Wondering: Sure, it’s easier than ever to have food delivered. But the gesture of bringing meals to the grieving or sick has never really been about making things more convenient for them (though that’s part of it). It’s about community. It’s about showing someone going through a hard time that he or she has the support of friends and neighbors. So I’d encourage you to do whatever you can. If you find you don’t have time to cook, then picking up takeout is just fine, too. It’s your stopping by that counts.

Dear Annie: As a survivor of abuse, I would like to share some things with “Ostracized,” whose adult children seem to have chosen their dad’s side despite his abusive behavior toward her: You are doing more for your children than you know. Leaving a toxic marriage teaches them how to stand up for themselves. Staying centered, calm and confident teaches them things that money won’t buy. They have their own lessons to learn, and added demands will only continue this churning. Snail-mail letters are powerful because they can come back to them time and time again. You are their mom, and his money and control won’t change that. I know it’s hard (I have been there), but new family dynamics call for new traditions. Anything you can do to make things easier for the kids will help them more than you know (and I’ve been the kid, too!). They will figure all of this out. It may take some time, but you will heal and show them that a happy life doesn’t depend on money. Be gentle with yourself. — A Happy Survivor

Dear Happy Survivor: Thank you for your beautiful letter. I’m printing it to provide encouragement to “Ostracized” and anyone else who has left an abusive partner.

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