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Miss Manners by Judith Martin, Nicholas Ivor Martin and Jacobina Martin

DEAR MISS MANNERS: Sadly, these days it’s not unusual to receive requests for prayer, action or positive thoughts for people going through difficulties. When one hasn’t heard any more about the situation in a week or two -- is the person out of the hospital or improving? Has a new job been found? Does the family perhaps need a meal? -- is there a polite way to inquire how things are?

Often, I’ll make a statement rather than ask a question, such as, “You’re still in my thoughts, and I hope things have improved for you. My offer of assistance still stands.” But I don’t get a response, and am still in the dark.

If the situation is still dire, I don’t want to intrude, but if the need has passed and I could be helpful to others, I’d like to move on.

GENTLE READER: There is no need to make these actions mutually exclusive. If those in need are able to ask for help, presumably they will reach out again if there is further necessity. In the meantime, Miss Manners assures you that you may safely otherwise direct your thoughts, prayers and generous deeds to others who may require it --whether they specifically reach out or not.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I were thrilled when I became pregnant -- in particular, because the baby would be my parents’ first grandchild, something that they’ve been looking quite forward to. I’m generally a very shy person, but as a consequence of their excitement, I made an effort to celebrate each step of my pregnancy with my family, including sharing sonograms, pictures and daily developments.

However, after my baby shower, and much to my surprise, my brother’s wife suddenly revealed that she, too, was expecting, and that her baby was scheduled to be delivered just days before mine. Why she’d concealed her pregnancy for so long, or how she’d been able to do so, have brought up countless questions, none of which have been answered.

My parents are ecstatic over the news, if not a bit overwhelmed. While I am happy for my sister-in-law and brother, I feel ridiculous that they let me amplify my pregnancy for so long while making no mention of their own. Is it too much to press them for an explanation, if not an apology?

GENTLE READER: For what exactly would your brother and sister-in-law be apologizing?

That you felt ridiculous, Miss Manners understands, but to demand an explanation for not wanting to update their relatives 270+ times in a year is unfair. In fact, this couple should be commended for their discretion and in granting you the spotlight, even if it was in the name of gratifying grandparental excitement. (And are you certain that their being overwhelmed is not at the prospect of now being doubly inundated with baby stimuli?)

There is a current and prevailing thought that public advertising of personal events should not be shamed. The same courtesy should be granted for those who wish to keep it private.

(Please send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, www.missmanners.com; to her email, dearmissmanners@gmail.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)