Sense & Sensitivity by Harriette Cole

After Shutdown Reader Wants to Support Local Businesses

DEAR HARRIETTE: Now that the government shutdown is over, we are relieved that my husband will be getting paid again, but we really took a hit during that period. It is going to take time to repair our credit and to get on stable footing.

But worse off than my family are the small businesses in our neighborhood that used to service government employees. I feel so sorry for them, and honestly, I didn’t think about them until I noticed what was happening. The guy who runs the hot dog stand near my husband’s job had virtually no customers for weeks. Same for the diner around the corner. Almost all of these businesses' patrons were government workers. I feel so bad for them. All we can do is start patronizing them again, but they will never gain that lost income. How can we show them support? -- After the Shutdown

DEAR AFTER THE SHUTDOWN: You are wise to realize how devastating the government shutdown was for far more individuals and businesses than government employees. I saw an estimate in Time magazine from Standard & Poor’s of $24 billion lost revenue during the shutdown, reflecting $3.1 billion in lost government services and $152 million per day in lost travel spending, $76 million per day because of National Parks being closed and $217 million per day in lost federal and contractor wages in the D.C. area. And that doesn’t even get to the people you mentioned. The devastation is tremendous and will be long-lasting.

Your empathy for those around you who were affected, along with your own family, is palpable. Humanize each of these scenarios. You may not have any significant dollars to send their way right now, but patronize their businesses when you can, and speak to the business owners whenever you see them. Talk about rebuilding. Listen to their stories, as they listen to yours. A healthy dose of humanity can go a long way in challenging times like these.

Abusive Ex Wants to Get Together

DEAR HARRIETTE: I got a call out of the blue from the guy I dated when I was in college. He said he wanted to get together for coffee or something. My mouth fell on the floor. What? This man was physically abusive to me. He should have gone to jail for beating me up, but I was stupid and didn’t press charges. I did break up with him, and I never intended to speak to him again.

It was incredibly disruptive for him to call me and act like nothing bad ever happened between us. I asked him if he remembered what he did to me years ago. He admitted that he did, but he said that since so much time has passed, he hoped we could be friends again. I did not agree to meet with him. Do you think I made the right decision? -- Stirring Up the Past

DEAR STIRRING UP THE PAST: You have every right to keep that chapter of your life in the past. Whatever redemption this man seeks is not your responsibility. Do know that he may be involved in a 12-step program that requires participants to attempt to make amends with those they have hurt. This could be why he’s reaching out. Still, you do not have to comply. If he calls again, cordially tell him that you will not be able to see him. The end.

(Harriette Cole is a lifestylist and founder of DREAMLEAPERS, an initiative to help people access and activate their dreams. You can send questions to or c/o Andrews McMeel Syndication, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.)