DEAR HARRIETTE: My brother was laid off from his job about a year ago, but he really isn't talking about it. The other day I ran into one of his friends from back home. When the friend told me that he had tried to call my brother at his office and was told he didn't work there anymore, I slipped and admitted that he was out of work. I feel so bad, because I didn't want to expose my brother.
This guy says he wants to reach out to my brother because they were close years ago. I didn't know what to say. I didn't give him my brother's number. I took his. Should I give it to my brother and tell him what happened? I think he's going to be really mad at me. -- Exposed, Washington, D.C.
DEAR EXPOSED: I understand your desire to protect your brother's privacy, but don't beat yourself up so much. Your brother's childhood friend figured it out himself when he called your brother's former office and learned that he doesn't work there anymore. You could have been vague about your brother's current situation, but it's natural that you may have been unsure as to what you should say.
Your next step is to contact your brother. Check in to see how he's doing. Tell him what happened when you ran into his old friend. Make sure he knows that his friend wants to be in touch, and share his friend's number. The end.
DEAR HARRIETTE: My son is invited to a birthday party, and the invitation says he should NOT bring a gift. My son is a little bit upset about that, because he's very close to the child and wants to give him something special. I'm wondering if it's OK to give the boy something small and inexpensive, or if doing so would be disrespectful of the parents' wishes. -- Giftless, Shreveport, La.
DEAR GIFTLESS: Call the boy's mother or father and explain your son's reaction. Ask if it would be all right to give the boy something. Perhaps your son could make a gift for the boy. That may be acceptable to the parents, because the sentiment is far more important than the act of buying something.
Many families are opting to do this these days, in part because children end up having way more things than they have time to play with. Toys, games and dolls sometimes pile up without the children truly valuing the items. This family may have taken this approach to teach their child to value shared experience more than stuff.
Another practice that is growing in popularity is having guests bring a gift that will go to charity rather than to the child. My daughter attended a party like that, and she was concerned about what the birthday girl would receive. The mom explained that her family would be giving her one very special gift, and not to worry.