Dear Ann Cannon • There is a family we have been friends with for years. We’ve watched their kids grow up and leave for college. We started to hang out with the newly minted empty-nesters most weekends. However, over the last couple of years one of the couple has displayed more and more reckless behavior, including abuse of prescribed medications and conducting at least one affair. Last June she up and left without a word. No one even knew where she had gone. Her devastated husband reported her missing. We helped as much as we could, and he was slowly picking up the pieces. Months later she returned, saying her leaving had been a “terrible mistake” and then proceeded to pick up right where she left off — and everyone let her do it.
With the shutdown we haven’t been able to see them, but with restrictions loosening, we will, and this is my dilemma. I truly believe that what she did was unforgivable. I’m also concerned that there could be a repeat in the near future because there were basically no consequences for her actions. I sounded out one of our mutual friends, who said that “everybody deserves a second chance.” My partner says the same thing. Should I give her a second chance?
Dear Wary • I guess the most important thing here, actually, is whether or not your friend is willing to give his partner a second chance, and if he is, then so be it. This, however, isn’t meant to discount your feelings about the situation. The woman’s behavior has obviously crossed a very serious line for you, and that’s OK.
So, what should your response be? Out of respect for her partner — and maybe even for your own partner — I would still socialize with the couple if the occasion arises. Be polite. But I see nothing wrong with keeping the woman at arm’s length for a while until you see how things play out.
Meanwhile, I received an interesting e-mail from a woman who has used this pandemic season to reach out to others in a major way. It’s worth sharing.
Dear Ann Cannon • I enjoy your column and down-to-earth insights. I think you recently missed the mark, however. Your reader felt like she was not doing enough to help others and you provided her with an exhaustive (exhausting?) list of activities to occupy time.
I, too, have made it a goal to do at least one thing to help someone else each week. I am connected to a mainline Protestant church and that has provided me some of the opportunities. I have helped at two “drive-by food drives,” bought potted flowers and attached a positive note and left them anonymously on senior members of my church’s doorsteps, sent notes and cards to at least two people a week, organized a kids’ clothing collection (bags left on front porches) for the kids still entering the foster care program, made meals for folks recovering from illness. I am donating blood next week, and my husband and I have selected and donated to about 10 local and national organizations.
There are still many needs that can be met, even while social distancing. Organizations (Crossroads Urban Center and Rescue Mission, for example) that are still providing food to the food insecure are in desperate need of ready-to-eat items that require no kitchen. Schools are still providing drive-by lunches to students. The list goes on.
I’ll admit that after I read this e-mail I felt like a slacker. Like, a really great, big, HUGE slacker. But it reminded me that there are indeed many ways to serve, to reach out, to help the people around us.