Sort of Like an Aunt

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

My best friend’s son is graduating from college this year. He’s going on
to a professional program in a year, but first taking time to travel and
detox from 21 years of school. He and his girlfriend are going to travel
in South and Central America, taking not much more than backpacks
and smart phones. It reminds me of my youth. I like this kid and wish
him well. I’ve also helped him a lot in the past five years, primarily
with editing his college essays and scholarship applications. As a result
he’s been able to accrue almost no school debt. I expect to help him
again this summer, to get his apps ready for the next set of
submissions. The question: What should I give him as a graduation
gift? I generally hate giving money, but he really lacks for nothing. If I
give cash, how much?

Sort of Like an Aunt

Dear Sort of Like an Aunt:

If this kid is like family, you should give him something you won’t be
embarrassed about. Even though you say you’re used to helping him,
you’d never have said No if he had come asking. So while your time
and effort are certainly worth something, they are also a gift you have
already given. It would be slightly churlish to keep rubbing his face in
your help, and to use your editing as some kind of quid pro quo for a

That said, you don’t have to give more than you are comfortable. My
guess is that he and his girl will be staying in hostels and eating on the
cheap. Think about a card, accompanied by a check of say $25-50,
that says: Have a wonderful time on your great adventure. The
attached is to be used exclusively for a lovely meal and a place with
your own bath and copious hot water. I expect to hear great stories
when you return!