A "Dear Abby" Moment: Your Opinion?

A neighbor lost his father. On FB, he asked outright for folks to send meals to his mother (who lives far away) via a website that makes such arrangements. Do you think that is a little presumptuous? Consider that, other than relatives, we have no idea who this woman is and what immediate family may already be doing for her and/or how many people she’d need to feed (even if she lives alone, her friends and family would be in and out of her place, I presume). I dunno. I find it an odd request, Yet, as a neighbor, I feel I am in an awkward position. The meals are a bit pricey. Yet, if I do nothing, I look bad. I should add his post was a bit brash flat-out assuming people will ask “what can I do to help” and, in the same breath, asking folks NOT to post condolences. To me, it’s all around kind of a weird way to handle this, even if he is hurting. Your thoughts? Would you cave and send a meal?

How would he know whether or not a specific someone participated?

I don’t think it is that odd. Typically, when people receive news of a death, they want to know what, if anything, they can do to help. It wears on you to have to answer the same question repeatedly. Consider this a “FAQ” for his mom. “You want to help? Here’s what would be appreciated.”

I don’t think it places any sort of obligation on you, and if a person wanted to help, but didn’t want to pay the increased cost of that service, I’m sure they could look at the list of meals that were suggested and create a home-cooked version of the dish.

As for posting it on Facebook, if he’s anything like me, he has a wide variety of Facebook friends. I have my current social circle, grad school friends, college friends, and yes, even high school friends as well as some of their parents. I’m thinking his post was for those people, not his neighbor.

If something ever happened to one of my parents, I would consider posting something similar, because I know that those people would want to know and would wonder if they could offer any assistance in any way. By no means would I expect my current drinking buddies to send something to my mother who lives out-of-state and whom they’ve never met.

I would assume the note was to get the word out to folks like family and family friends who would be personally interested in helping, not to neighbors and personal friends who have no particular link to the parents.

Me, I wouldn’t send a meal unless I had a personal relationship with the parents, and wouldn’t feel the slightest bit guilty about it. I would offer condolences in person, of course.

Was this an “in lieu of flowers” sort of thing?

This is exactly my take on it, as well.

Agreed. It’s fairly common, when someone dies, for people to bring food to the surviving family, so they won’t have to worry about cooking in their time of bereavement. This would provide an option for people who want to do something like this but can’t do so in person. I’ve never heard of such a service, but I’m not surprised something like it exists.

How was the facebook post worded, that made you think everyone reading it was expected/obligated to do what he said?

I have hundreds of Facebook friends- some are people I know extremely well and am close to. Some are casual acquaintances or old co-workers or classmates.

If one of the casual acquaintances made the same request cited in the OP, I would not necessarily feel obliged to pay for a meal. But neither would I consider it objectionable.

If it were posted by a closer friend or a family member, I would definitely fulfill his request and pay for a meal. Whenever someone dies, we all tend to say, “Let me know if there’s anything I can do to help.” Here, we’re getting a tangible, reasonable request for help. Sounds like a GREAT opportunity.

Beats sending flowers or Mass cards to heck!

I would consider it mildly objectionable, but the guy’s dad just died, so I’d excuse whatever.
I’d probably send a meal, even if I didn’t know the mom. Thinking about some old lady whose husband just died sitting alone without the strength to prepare herself a nice meal is making me sad and it’s not even my neighbor.

I don’t see a problem with it at all. Let’s not forget that while he’s concerned about his grieving mom, your friend/neighbor also lost his father. People in mourning don’t always put etiquette at the top of their list of “how to react after a loved one dies.” Do what you feel comfortable with. If you can’t afford the meal thing on your own and you do want to help out, maybe team up with another neighbor in a similar situation and give together.

I don’t find it objectionable and I don’t see any expectation or obligation. Facebook is more like pinning something on a community bulletin board than a letter or a card, and I think the expectation is you’ll pay attention if it is relevant to you, and just ignore if it is not.

I think the service is fine. Some people want to make a gesture after a death, but often that gesture is wasted (lots of flowers that nobody is in a state to enjoy) or even worse a drain on the family (like visits they may not be ready to host.) Preparing food is pretty common, and this service presumably ensures she doesn’t end up with six casseroles in one day, five of which won’t get eaten, and then nothing for the next week.

Does his mother live far away? If he’s trying to handle all this long-distance, I can sort of see why he would try to channel good intentions into practical help. I don’t understand asking no condolences be posted, though…it’s too hard to post a blanket Thanks for your Thoughts? when he’s willing to use FB to orchestrate help?

I would send a meal because it’s a neighbor and it’s easier than trying to explain somewhere down the line why you didn’t. But this wouldn’t really sit well with me. Kind of controlling.

I do see a bit of a problem with it. It’s the part in the OP where they have specific prices on their food. So there’s an inherent minimum to what you can contribute. That’s tacky.

I also have a problem with being told not to send condolences. I think it’s bizarre to tell someone they can’t express sympathy for you in a trying time. Is it one of those cases where they are having a “celebration of life” instead of a funeral?

Granted, the OP may have taken a completely innocuous post the wrong way, but, if it’s as he describes, I agree it’s bizarre.

Since the one thing you would normally offer (condolences) is off the table, I suggest not responding at all. That’s apparently what they want.

Sending a “casserole” is something of a tradition to the sick and bereaved.

Let’s say I had 150 FB friends, and 25 of them were close friends. I could choose to make a blanket request to all, or craft a specific FB message to the 25.

I’d opt for the former rather than the latter. A blanket request comes across as a simple “hey, if you feel like it, here’s this way you can help if you feel like it.” It lets the close friends know without overtly pointing to them as expected donors, and it might be a nice surprise if some of the non-close friends choose to respond. The specific message would seem a bit too direct to me, “I am specifically choosing to send this request to you because I expect you will help.”

The prices are those the food service which happens to operate on the mother’s area has. I don’t see how it’s tacky for the guy to say “there’s this service that’s available to those of you who can’t bring something in person” and for the service itself to have prices. “Pay me what you think it’s worth” is not a common business model.
Another +1 for “the OP is unlikely to be one of the message’s intended targets” and perfectly fine other than for something that I find a general issue with using Facebook to communicate: it’s a bit of a modern town crier, sometimes you get messages that weren’t really meant for you.

We often use Meal Train to coordinate taking meals to the sick or bereaved. It is so helpful to know what days are covered and who’s bringing what. It avoids six lasagnas in a row, for example. We usually post the link on Facebook along with dietary preferences. So, no, I don’t think it’s odd or rude. It’s informative.

That’s the thing. Does the service do that? Usually when people local to the bereaved bring meals over, someone takes the role of organizer and makes sure there’s no duplication and each meal is covered.

This falls into the ignorant of proper manners category. Don’t blast your neighbor for not following proper manners. But neither should you feel compelled to arrange meals for someone you don’t even know. Follow your own conviction as to how you would respond if you had heard that your neighbor’s father had passed.