Q: Our family suffered a flooding disaster, resulting in temporary displacement from our home. We are in the repair process and have received numerous gifts, including hot meals, clothing and shoes for our children, and help with demolishing aspects of the home in preparation for repair.
How should one thank people? Would people expect thank-you notes in this circumstance?
A: Don’t you WANT to thank them? Of course, you will have thanked them at the time. But a letter is a serious way of showing appreciation, beyond the simple spoken thanks you toss off for trivial courtesies.
When you ask whether thanks are expected, Miss Manners hopes that you are not implying that this is a form of payment demanded by those who have been kind to you. Thanks are expected, on the part of generous people, in the sense that they want to hear that their contributions were appreciated because they made a difference.
Miss Manners imagines that these efforts have indeed been valuable to you. And even if they were not, she would want you to understand that such was the intention and react accordingly.
If they have not inspired you to express your gratitude, they should at least suggest to you how useful it is to be the beneficiary of largesse and make you want to encourage that.
Q: My close cousin is getting married to a wonderful gentleman this summer in America. However, I live in Asia. The wedding date had been known for ages, and I am traveling home specifically to go to the wedding. My cousin and I coordinated my plane ticket together to make sure I could attend and still have plenty of time to see family.
I had just received the invitation here in Asia. However, due to mailing circumstances and distance, the deadline is much closer than I thought to send it back. I have sent the RSVP out, but it will not make it in time.
In this case I regretfully sent an email message to my cousin that I graciously accept the invitation but that the RSVP would not return to her in time.
Other adults in my area think this was a bit of a faux pas. But I feel that given the circumstances, I did the best I could do.
Who is correct in this circumstance? Did I do the right thing? Should I do something different in the future?
A: As you both answered the invitation properly, in the form in which it was given, and also had the consideration to reassure your cousin that you would indeed be attending as planned, Miss Manners can think of only one thing you should have done differently: that would be not to solicit general opinion about a problem that you solved graciously and sensibly on your own.
Q: From time to time, when I do an act of kindness or generosity with no agenda (although I don’t mind being well thought of), the recipient reacts with, “You shouldn’t have” or “You didn’t have to.” In the latter case, I sometimes smile and say, “The only thing I have to do is die.” Is there an appropriate verbal response I can proffer in those situations?
A: “But I wanted to.”
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.