Dear Abby: Serviceman resists offer to pick up his tab

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DEAR ABBY: Recently, at a local donut shop, I created what I’m afraid was an awkward social situation as I was placing my order.

Three military servicemen in uniform came in and stood in line behind me. As the cashier rang me up, after a few moments of mulling it over, I told them I was thankful for their service and politely asked, “May I please buy your coffee for you?”

I was shocked when one of them responded, “I’d rather you didn’t. We make pretty good money, you know.” He then proceeded to say he always tries to “avoid situations like this” because “a lot of service people take advantage of civilians who offer them things for free.”

The other two seemed to share his sentiments, but agreed to let me pay. Each one shook my hand and thanked me before leaving, but I could see I had made them uncomfortable.

I truly am thankful for the services of those in uniform and never intended to offend them in any way. Next time, should I donate to a military support charity instead? I don’t want to offend anyone again. — OFFENSIVELY PATRIOTIC?

DEAR PATRIOTIC: It is not rude to thank someone for the job he or she is doing. You did nothing wrong. Your offer was gracious and generous, and in no way an implication that those individuals couldn’t afford to pay for their coffee.

However, some people find it difficult to accept the “burden of gratitude,” and the person who lectured you may have been one of them. Please recognize that and do not allow what one man said to change what you’re doing.

DEAR ABBY: I have known for a long time that once both of my parents were gone, I would cease contact with my brothers. My problem is how to explain it to other family members and friends.

I don’t want to go into the details about my reasons. I feel it would hurt my parents if the truth were out. One aunt keeps asking why and insisting I should make amends.

Abby, one brother went to jail for murder, and both of them are child molesters. Neither is a person I would want in my house. They have stolen from me, and there’s no love lost between any of us.

I’m not good at lying and don’t know what to say. Is there a way to ask them to stop asking about my brothers without telling them anything? I don’t want to be rude. — FAMILY DRAMA

DEAR FAMILY DRAMA: You could tell these people the subject is closed, but they may not respect your wishes.

Frankly, I can’t understand why you feel it would hurt your two (dead) parents if the truth was told. They are beyond caring now, and if people knew what your brothers are capable of — murder, theft and child molesting — they might prefer to protect themselves by also distancing themselves.

I know I certainly would.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

To receive a collection of Abby’s most memorable — and most frequently requested — poems and essays, send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds), to: Dear Abby — Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price.

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