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home : columns : dear harriette May 24, 2016

1/3/2014 1:34:00 PM
Getting a gift does not need to start a cycle

DEAR HARRIETTE: I recently received a gift from a woman who attends my church. She told me it was a friendship gift, and I should not worry about giving her a gift in return. I did not plan to give her a gift in the first place. I am wondering if I should give her a gift because it is the right thing to do. I think she likes me as a potential boyfriend. She is nice and all, but not my type. What should I do? -- Puzzled, New York City

DEAR PUZZLED: The most important thing to do when you receive a gift is to say thank you and mean it. The cycle of giving is complete with acknowledgment. There is no requirement for giving a gift in exchange. Since you don't want to send mixed messages to this woman, simply thank her and let it end.

DEAR HARRIETTE: I love your column. You have good, commonsense answers for all situations. Thank you for knowing what to say and how to say it. I was happy with the answer you gave about the regifted coffee maker. But I have volunteered at a charity shop for 15 years, and we cannot accept broken items, clothing needing repairs or soiled items. We have no way to fix, wash or mend items. Our only inventory comes from donations, and we exist only because of generous donations. Because of our volunteers and donations, we are able to greatly assist victims of domestic violence. Thank you for mentioning charity shops. But bring us only clean and gently used donations in good working order, please! -- Charitable, Palo Hills, Ill.

DEAR CHARITABLE: Thank you for your letter. Many people wrote in to point out that charities do not appreciate receiving broken items. I am very pleased that you all are so responsive. I did not think my answer through far enough as it relates to what a charity can do with a broken item. Indeed, as you mention here, the same is true for anything that may need mending or may need to be cleaned. I bet that charities regularly receive items that they cannot use, especially at the end of the year and around tax time, when people are either being particularly generous or want to declutter their homes.

So thank you for the reminder to be mindful of what you offer to charities. As you point out, a lot of good work is done by these organizations that exist to support those in need. Your letter reminds me of my philosophy regarding volunteering. I believe that you should work as hard at a task when you are not being paid as if you were being paid a million dollars. The quality of your effort should always be excellent. In that same vein, the quality of the items that you gift to a charity, a friend, a co-worker -- anybody -- should be equal to the quality you would like to receive.

Lifestylist and author Harriette Cole is president and creative director of Harriette Cole Media. You can send questions to or c/o Universal Uclick, 1130 Walnut St., Kansas City, MO 64106.

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