DEAR MISS MANNERS: When someone purchases a raffle ticket for a worthy cause and wins the grand prize (say, $10,000), is it proper or expected that they donate a portion of it back to the charity? And if so, what percentage, please?
GENTLE READER: Secular society is strangely fond of tithing, but: no. The things one receives for donating to a cause -- hats, mugs, tote bags and, Miss Manners will now add, raffle prize money -- are given as thanks for your generous donations. And one does not give gifts for thank-yous sent to acknowledge gifts.
DEAR MISS MANNERS: I was raised to write thank-you letters. Not just thank-you letters, actually, but “letters of appreciation.” I absorbed the message that a gift, no matter how ineptly chosen or inappropriate, was a little piece of the giver’s heart; it represented a sacrifice of time, money, thought, consideration and effort, and must be treated with respect and appreciation. These were to be expressed in simple, genuine words in the thank-you letter.
I live in a tiny studio apartment that did not come equipped with all the things one normally considers standard equipment. Because of a lack of workspace and storage, I quickly adapted my lifestyle to do without certain built-in appliances that most people use several times per week. I’m content with how things are, and I can afford to buy anything I really feel is lacking.
The problem is that some very kind friends have given me a freestanding version of one of the “missing” appliances, and it is completely impractical for me to set up and use it. I had mentioned that my place lacked certain standard equipment, but had not complained of it being a problem.
I thanked my friends for their generosity, thoughtfulness and kindness. I spoke in general terms about the value of such an item in making a home more convenient, etc. But the item itself remains in its box, taking up already-minimal floor space and generating muttered imprecations when I have to shove it out of the way to get at things I need.
Another friend told me, “Just sell it.” But I can’t. I would not wound these dear, loving, generous-hearted friends for anything. Yet I cannot think of any way of resolving the problem of a gift I cannot use, cannot easily store away, and cannot throw back in my friends’ faces by regifting, selling or donating it. I don’t know anyone who could use it.
Do you have any advice?
GENTLE READER: Your letter of thanks accomplished one other thing: It discharged your duty to demonstrate gratitude. Miss Manners does not say this to admonish you for continuing to feel gratitude, only to remind you that your obligation is limited.
Better to sell, donate, discard or regift this unwelcome appliance than to start thinking of your friends as the miscreants who cause you to stub your toe thrice daily.