DEAR MISS MANNERS: Now that it is spring, I am receiving the annual round of e-mails soliciting financial pledges for various walkathons, marathons and other sorts of -thons in support of illness-related charities. My friends do not have the illness they -thon for; usually it's a parent or sibling. I do not respond to these requests, if only because I have an expensive chronic illness of my own and extremely limited resources. I also have an ethical qualm about these charities. My illness has its own charity that sponsors a -thon, too; I am a member of that organization, but I have no idea how the thonning benefits people suffering from the illness.
Still, I feel callous for not responding; some of the requests come from people who have been at least emotionally supportive during my illness. Are the requests best ignored, or could I respond with a note expressing my best wishes, with thanks for their support?
GENTLE READER: But surely you have been thanking these people all along for their emotional support, and offering your own as it may be needed?
That you certainly owe, but not financial support of their causes, however worthy. You have your own, and they surely understand that when they do mass canvassing. No apologies or explanations are necessary.
But Miss Manners believes that you owe it to yourself to find out how the money is spent that you donate to the charity connected with your illness. Usually, it is marked to support research, rather than going directly to patients, but you should be able to get that information, as well as the figures on how much is first deducted for overhead, salaries and the event
DEAR MISS MANNERS: A neighbor of mine recently delivered an "extra batch" of her fudge that she was making for a bake-off. I was disappointed to discover that the fudge she had made came with walnuts, almonds and peanuts, all of which I am allergic to. Not wanting it to go to waste, I took it to work, where visitors to my cubicle were happy to help themselves.
When my neighbor saw me the next week, she asked how I enjoyed her fudge. I stated, "Unfortunately, I am allergic to the nuts that were in the fudge, but I'm sure it was spectacular." She was absolutely horrified by my response and called me "rude and ungrateful." I'm not quite sure what I had done wrong. How could I have better handled this?
GENTLE READER: You did not get off to a good start. "Unfortunately" is not the first word a benefactor wants to hear about her offering.
Granted that your neighbor should not have asked, and she certainly should not have upbraided you. But her original intention was to be friendly, and you opened with a negative reaction.
Couldn't you have rearranged your words? "I took it to the office, and everyone just loved it. I was so tempted, but unfortunately, I have an allergy to nuts." You could even have omitted that last sentence, unless you felt it necessary to head off future deliveries -- a problem you no longer have.