DEAR MISS MANNERS: My son's public elementary school PTA is divided over whether or not to donate to a charitable cause. I'm curious which side you would support.
Here is the dilemma: The public school is desperately in need of repairs, new school supplies, an updated facility and various other real needs right at our school. For the last two years, the school has received a large donation from an anonymous source with the only stipulation that it be used toward arts education.
The school's PTA is very good at raising funds and has a surplus of money that must be used or will be lost. The school PTA decided to donate money to a charitable cause (a crisis nursery) in light of the 9/11 events. The idea was to donate the money to this cause in honor of the anonymous donor who has given the school funds in the past.
This does not make any sense to me. If you require money for your own needs and someone even gives you money to help with your needs, doesn't it seem irrational to then give some of your own money away in honor of that donor? I would think the anonymous donor would be scratching his head in disbelief. I guess the question is this: Should our public school donate to a charitable cause even if it has true needs of its own?
GENTLE READER: Miss Manners wouldn't do well in your school. She doesn't understand what is going on any more than you do.
There is the arithmetic problem: If the school has financial needs, how come it has a surplus of money?
Then there is the problem that has to do with logic, psychology and simple social skills: If someone has made a point of being anonymous, why would you want to single that person out publicly (knowing that even if the person's name is not used, this would excite curiosity)? And why would that person or anyone else donate money to an organization that has money to spare?
The lesson that your PTA needs is: If you can't afford it, you can't do it, even if what you want to do is a good deed. For extra credit, they should learn that even those who are strapped themselves can contribute to good causes by donating their time and effort.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: In addressing my wedding invitations, I am confronted with a dilemma. I understand that it is incorrect to address a widowed lady as "Mrs. Mary Jones," but that she remains "Mrs. Herbert Jones," as she has always been.
However, among my elderly relatives there are quite a few ladies who have been referring to themselves for decades in this "incorrect" way. Should I address them as they have chosen, or write to them by their "correct" title? In some cases, I would have to do some serious genealogical research to find out what their deceased husband's name had been, as they have been using this nomenclature for more than two generations' living memory! Should I not honor a lady's wishes in how she is named, if I know them?
GENTLE READER: Of course you should. Whether or not you plan to take your husband's name, don't you expect others to respect your choice? Miss Manners hopes that the research time you save will be employed learning that correcting others is even more seriously incorrect than whatever incorrectness you spot.