Harriette Cole: How do I help my neighbor without making her feel like a pity case?

DEAR HARRIETTE: My neighbor is an elderly woman who lives alone because her husband passed away a few years ago and her children live in a different state.

Harriette Cole 

We’ve never been close — perhaps because my block isn’t the friendliest. Nonetheless, I want to reach out to her and let her know that we are here if she wants to come over for dinner or needs a favor.

I want to offer help without seeming like I’m doing it out of pity. How should I start?

Elderly Neighbor

DEAR ELDERLY NEIGHBOR: With an open heart, go for it.

Start by knocking on her door one day and telling her you just stopped by to check in and say hello. Ask her if you can visit with her for a few minutes. If she lets you in, sit with her and listen to what she shares. Many older people like to tell stories of their past. They may also reveal what some of their needs are.

Look around. Note how she lives. She could need help tidying her house or managing her food. She surely could benefit from an occasional meal cooked by someone else. Do invite her to come to your home for dinner sometimes. Offer to help with small tasks.

If it seems she needs significant help, find out if she will put you in touch with her adult children or other family members to whom you can give a status report.

Tread lightly, though. The best thing you can do is to ease into a relationship with her where you build trust. Through that bond, she will become more willing to welcome your help. Also, be mindful not to offer more than you can fulfill or manage.

Your attention to this elder in any amount can be enormously supportive. Just make sure you are balancing your offering with the rest of your life.

DEAR HARRIETTE: Summer’s over, but I’m not happy about it.

For the first time in nearly two years, I had some fun. I hung out with friends in person. Things felt kind of normal compared to the time we were in quarantine.

But now that I am no longer in vacation mode, I have to deal with going back to work and wearing a mask every day. It feels like we are going backward, and I can’t stand it. What can I do to keep the energy of the summer alive?

More Summer, Please

DEAR MORE SUMMER, PLEASE: We are all unhappy that we continue to face the devastation of the coronavirus — now in several variant forms. It is frightening and must be taken seriously as it can be a matter of life or death, especially for those who are unvaccinated.

For all of us, it does mean that we have to err on the side of caution. Does that take away some freedoms? I believe that having to wear a mask is a small price to pay for my health. Perhaps you can consider the precautions for the fall as a positive health measure rather than a prison.

Also, the thought of walking away from the carefree nature of summer is something many people experience every year. I, too, love summer and wish it would last a little longer. Since it can’t, I have learned to savor the memories as I pivot to what’s next. One way you can keep the joy flowing is to continue to spend time — safely — with your close friends.

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

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Author: Harriette Cole

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