Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I do a lot of erranding favors for a neighbor who has been
incapacitated by a rare disease. She has a husband but he is busy
taking care of his 98-year- old mother, and I am retired and zip around
town to the gym etc. So several days a week she asks me “If you are
going to the store would you pick me up….” And though I would not go
to the store on my own as often as she asks me, it is impossible to get
to our neighborhood without passing a large market, so I generally
accommodate. She has complained bitterly in the past about people
who judge her illness as a result of her obesity, and has said how she
doesn&'t want to be her husband’s “food police” or have anyone try and
be hers.


But as her health and mobility decline and her treatments do
not seem to be having any kind of turn-around impact, she more and
more often asks me to pick up foods I know are not on her official
regimen. These are cloaked with seemingly legitimate requests, such
as “Avocadoes are on sale. Can you get me four, and so are the giant
bags of chips, so please get me three of those too.” I did it last week
but I am increasingly uncomfortable continuing to enable her. Plus,
every time I go to the “bad” sections of the market, it makes me want
to eat things I am trying to avoid. How can I decline without adding to
her woes?


Dear Schlepper:

Helping the less mobile is good. So is being a good neighbor. But
enabling and violating your personal values is bad, and you shouldn&'t
be put in that situation, especially if it hurts both of you.
Next time you deliver food tell her that you are changing your
schedule and diet and want to stop at the store less frequently. Ask
her to give you one list by early Monday morning, and assume her
hubby will pick up additional items on his way home from caretaking
her mother-in- law.


Tell her that while you understand her views about
“the food police,” you are trying to clean up your own act. Say simply,
I do not want to go into the “bad neighborhoods” of the market
anymore. Explain that you’re happy to bring her all the produce she
wants, but that she should also ask her hubby to be the treat-bearer,
because just being around them make your own choices harder to
support. She will not be happy. But she will get over it. She will almost
certainly test you, and you’ll have to decide where to draw the line.