Q: A good friend of mine was a houseguest for one night during a march in D.C. She spent the first two nights of her stay in a local hotel but, a few weeks before her visit, she had called to ask me if she could stay with me for her last night in town. I told her of course.
She also offered to pay me $100, the same as her hotel room rate. I told her at the time absolutely not — she was a guest and I would be so happy to put her up.
To note: Five years previously, she spent a summer renting a room in my apartment when I was in the early stages of a severe chronic illness. I have been unemployed and on disability ever since then, but I am slowly recovering, although financially it has been tight.
Now, years later, I am happy to be well enough to offer her a place to stay, and her visit with me, while barely lasting 24 hours, was a very nice reunion of sorts for both of us.
I tidied her room shortly after she left, but it wasn’t until several weeks later that I discovered a card she tucked into a corner of the room I had not touched. Within was a short thank-you and a $100 bill.
I am not offended or hurt, just embarrassed that I didn’t find the card until weeks later, and I feel she could use the money for something else in life, as she is retired and had already paid quite a bit for airfare and hotel for her stay. I am just so happy I was able to offer her a place to stay to complete her visit.
I am planning to send her a note, and I’d like to send back the money and say, “I promise, next time you can pay me!” Her visit was pure joy for me — gift enough — and as much as her generosity is heartfelt, I’d like the money back in her hands. That way, she could share her financial generosity with someone who needs it far more than I do, or however she likes.
For me, $100 is not a small sum, but I was already given the gift of her visit, and the money is just too much. Your thoughts?
A: That you put all of these kind words and gratitude in the letter, omitting the part that assures her that she can pay you on the next visit. It is confusing enough that you have switched from the business arrangement you had before to one of pure hospitality without suggesting that you would be switching back.
So instead, reinforce that you were genuinely happy to have her as a guest and that payment is not needed. Your friend is probably extremely aware of your previous financial hardship and self-conscious about requesting a room from you now. Do not embarrass her by returning the gift (if for no other reason than Miss Manners is worried about its safety in the postal system), but simply acknowledge it gracefully and ensure her that you are looking forward to expressing your gratitude in subsequent visits.
Judith Martin writes the Miss Manners column with help from her son, Nicholas Ivor Martin, and her daughter, Jacobina Martin. Send your questions to Miss Manners at her website, MissManners.com; or through postal mail to Miss Manners, Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.