Ask Amy: Thank volunteers by paying it forward

FresnoAugust 23, 2013 

Dear Amy: Our small town recently suffered a natural disaster, and about 50 homes, including mine, were affected in a big way. Many friends and a few acquaintances did a lot of dirty, tedious work to remove wet belongings to speed up the long process of recovery.

I wasn't home when it happened, but arrived in time to be intimately involved in the difficult work. I understand what they did. I don't know the names of everyone who helped. I need to thank these wonderful people.

We have modest resources, but with a few years of extra work we will recover.

What we lost is considerable, but it can't compare to what happens in less-developed countries. We are thankful for our health and the chance to start again.

I have considered a donation to a nearby disaster relief agency or to our community foundation to thank these volunteers. I've also considered a dinner at a local restaurant, which struggles to make a profit; I could invite the people who helped me. I'll personally thank, in writing, those whose names I know.

Should I pay people? How can I best thank and honor these good people without taking away from their gift to me?

— Bryce, in Lindsborg, Kan.

Dear Bryce: You have already thanked your neighbors in this space. Now, act out your heart's intentions (though I don't believe you should pay people).

Also, spread your gratitude by paying these good deeds forward. No doubt some day in the future you will be called upon to be the anonymous helper, assisting with cleanup — and I have a feeling you will be on the front lines. That's the way people roll in communities all across this country.

Dear Amy: "Private Sister" was worried because her sister was posting private information about their brother's mental illness on a social networking site. She is correct that the decision if, when, and whom to inform about her brother's mental illness is her brother's. The most important thing either sister can do is support their brother in a loving, nonjudgmental way, and find a way to advocate and educate that honors him.

— Leigh

Dear Leigh: I agree. Thank you.


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