Metro-East Living

How do you offer to help a single mom in need?

Q. I think this lady in my church could use some help with school supplies for her children. She’s had a lot of bad luck lately. I see stores are already having sales. I’m not sure how to go about this. Unlike when my children were going to school, I understand the teachers now provide lists of items each child is supposed to have. I guess I could just ask her for the lists and go buy the items myself, but I think the little ones would like to be able to pick out items in the colors they like perhaps. For a couple of reasons, I would prefer not just handing her an envelope of money. What’s the proper approach?

2020 Dianne Isbell NEW

A. How thoughtful and kind of you to want to help this lady and her children. Having the necessary back-to-school items is so important to help children become excited about returning to school. How you approach her on the subject could be critical in that you do not want her to feel embarrassed in any way. This is the approach I would recommend:

▪  Discuss the subject with her in private. After church services might provide the opportunity for a short conversation. If not, a phone call may be your next option.

▪  Keep your conversation simple. Keep it positive. Keep it upbeat!

▪  Do not mention you feel she needs help from you or anyone else in getting these school supplies for her children.

Make her feel she will be doing YOU a favor if she allows you to purchase these school supplies. With that thought in mind, and a cheery voice, I suggest you say something like this:

“Gosh, the stores are full of all these back-to-school supplies. I remember taking my children to the store each year to pick out their supplies. One liked his notebook cover to be in red and the other preferred everything in blue. It was so much fun to see the excitement on their faces as they made all their selections. I really, really miss that. I wonder if you would allow me to take your children shopping this year and buy them their school supplies? It would mean a lot to me if I could do that. If you would just tell me which store you recommend, give me their lists, and the best day, we could be on our way. An ice cream afterwards would be fun, too, and you could have some time to yourself while we are gone. Any day next week would work for me, what day would be best for them and you?”

Proceed from that opening, keeping the conversation exciting, and then “close the deal” as they say in the sales world by selecting the day and time. Who knows, maybe some other kind person will read this and do the same for some other children. You have definitely incentivized me! Thank you.

Q. I think people need to know the online messages at a funeral home’s website may never reach the family members. Following a close family member’s passing, I don’t recall any information from the funeral home representative ... concerning their online service for messages. Turns out that numerous people from far away left messages, but not all of us were aware of the ‘service’ and didn’t know to access them.

Another incident occurred out-of-state in attempting to find the obituary in their local newspaper. I wasn’t able to access anything without signing on and paying for the paper’s subscription! That leaves only an internet search for the town’s funeral homes and their websites.

Aren’t these things that funeral representatives should tell you?

A. Yes, these definitely are topics which a funeral representative should discuss with family members. They may be subjects which need to be reemphasized more than once by the funeral representative since grieving family members may not be able to focus on all the details being provided to them at the beginning of the funeral arrangement process.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Dianne Isbell at Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to