Best Behavior: Finding the Words


A tornado blasted through Dallas a couple of weeks back and blew me out of my condo. A lovely couple, whom I didn’t know, took me in and took total care of me. A young woman who was my neighbor is their niece, so they insisted that I come to their house. I’ve never been treated so kindly. Every meal was taken care of. Every morning, I woke up to find coffee ready. Lots of nights, they had friends over for dinner. I cannot say how grateful I am. Since my condo was demolished, I’ve moved into a rental apartment. They are devout Catholics and told me there’s no reason for me do anything. But I want to. Where can I begin? —Tim, Dallas, Texas

These people seem to have descended out of the clouds. They’re not asking for anything, but they may have to put up with your gratitude.

“Thank you” is a good place to begin, but I bet you’ve already said that more than once. A note, a simple one, is right, and so are flowers — something like an orchid that will have a long life ahead of it, like the relationship that you and they have begun.

Since you know the couple are Catholics, you’re ahead of the game. You can find a cause that they support that you’re comfortable with. Go ahead and write a check; the organization will let them know. Once you’re settled in and have your life back together, take them out to dinner, or, even better, have them over to your new place. Don’t do it right away; you’ll want to make it clear that you’re friends for life.

There’s no way you can be too grateful. Just make sure you don’t forget. If you’ve learned from them, you can pass their good work along. They’ll like hearing about it.


There’s a guy in my life who can’t remember my name. We were introduced in a bar about a month ago, and we’ve run into each other three or four times since. Every time we meet, however, I see a blank look in his eyes. Or is terror? He comes up to me, but he doesn’t know what to say. Maybe he can’t remember anybody’s name. I’m tempted to say, “You don’t know who am I, do you?” But I figure that would be rude, or even cruel, on my part. But this is getting really old. What do I do? —Sean, The Gulch

Odd things happen in bars. This guy’s eyes may be blank for a good reason. It is, after all, possible to have a conversation in a bar without anybody learning anybody else’s name.

Rudeness and cruelty are not your only options. If you care enough, you can reintroduce yourself every time you run into him. It won’t hurt. Before too long, surely he’ll say, “Yes, I know. It’s good to see you.” Maybe you’ll embarrass him into remembering.

You could write your name down on a cocktail napkin and pass it along, but you might not want to add your phone number. He’d probably lose it — or maybe you’ll want him to.

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