Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:
This is very awkward. There’s a woman in my widest circle of friends
(this includes my congregation, artistic circle, book group, etc.) who is
dying of cancer. She’s doing it very publicly and as far as I can tell
willing to exploit the sentimentality, sympathy, and wallet of anyone
she knows and everyone they know. Many people like her and think
she’s a sensitive saint. Frankly I have found her petty and self-serving,
and while I wouldn’t wish cancer or death on anyone, the public
spectacle is annoying me and making me resistant to going to any of
the fund-raising events that are being given in her honor. How can I
tactfully decline to participate in her circus?
Not Giving Any More
Dear Not Giving:
You&'re entitled to your opinion of this woman. But I’d suggest that not
sharing it, with anyone, is the right course of action. Whatever she did
to you, or whatever she to engender such feelings in you, is at vast
contrast with how others feel, or say they do. Once a community has
bonded around an image of someone, especially someone who is dying
very publicly, it doesn’t change. If you utter so much as a peep
against her you’ll become the target of everyone else’s latent feelings
of being put upon, as well as the righteous anger of those who love
and care about her, and who’ll wish it were you instead. So button up
your mouth and stop any unkind thoughts from passing your lips. You
may even be right, but why upset anyone by saying so. And if you’re
wrong, save yourself the shame.
What you can do is recommend that a fund be started for her at a local
bank. It’s pretty traditional for similar circumstances. It allows people
to deposit (anonymously) for her medical expenses. If there isn’t
already one, start one and encourage others to give. If there’s already
a fund, give so you can say you did (I’m sure you can afford $50).
When you’re invited to an event, you can reply, I can’t go but I gave to the So-and- So Fund. I hope she heals quickly or goes easily. If
anyone attempts to engage you more in more conversation you can
legitimately say, I can’t talk about it any more. It’s too upsetting.