Thursday, December 26, 2013

Real Talk With Rachel: Appropriate Appreciation

by Rachel Kurzius

Dear Rachel,

I recently went on a trip and I met a very interesting pair of locals. We were soon joking and enjoying each other’s company. They invited me to join them for dinner and though they were very impoverished it was one of the best meals of my life, thanks to the company. It was very clear they had hit hard times, but I didn’t want to pay them for the meal or make it seem like I wanted to put a price on what an amazing time I had. Now that I look back on it, I wonder if I should have given them some money because they could have used it more than me. What should I have done?

No Such Thing As a Free Dinner?

Dear No Such Thing As a Free Dinner,

All you can do is ask. You don’t need to start the conversation with something like, “So how much should pay for dinner?” This is not a tit-for-tat exchange. Instead, acknowledge what was clear -- they’re going through hard times -- and ask if there’s anything you can do to help, because you’ve been touched by their company. 

This is harder than it sounds. I guess you already know that. It can feel awkward to talk about money, even as so many of our choices revolve around trying to get it or figuring out what to do with it. In a conversation as honest and open as yours seemed to be, though, you can try to move beyond that discomfort. 

Perhaps part of what made your experience with this duo so special is that it was completely divorced from how lots of people determine value. Money had nothing to do with your fantastic evening. Don’t let guilt over not handing over a check shade your memory now. 

The best way to honor your evening now is to try and be as open and warm with others as these two were with you. And in the future, if you're not sure if you can help someone out, then ask.

All best,



Rachel Kurzius revels in giving advice, and has provided counsel both as a columnist and a friend. She lives in Washington DC, where she works as a news producer. Real Talk with Rachel is published on All Life is Local and the Cleveland Park Listserv,, on Wednesdays or Thursdays. Need advice? You can write to Rachel via or advice @

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