Dear Liz,

We have a pretty active social life since we moved here with our two young children. We love Mount Pleasant, the Charleston area and especially the people. We’ve settled happily into our home and our church home, which is very important to us. We love it here.

Here’s the issue. We abstain from drinking alcohol as part of our values and religious beliefs. We do not judge anyone else who does choose to drink. But we have found in our new Southern roots that alcohol is offered everywhere and especially during the Christmas holidays. We recognize this as hospitality. And it is appreciated. It just wasn’t as prevalent in the mid-west where we came from. How do we not offend our gracious hosts?

Wanting to be polite

Dear “Wanting to be polite,”

Thank you for this important question. And you are demonstrating wonderful manners by being concerned about being gracious. A simple “no thank you” is all that is necessary. There really is no need to explain why unless you are directly asked. And then, simply explain as you did in your letter. Less said the better. Later, as you get closer to new friends you may want to explain your choices and your appreciation of their support. This comes up for three reasons: religious beliefs, health choices and the desire to stay sober (in recovery). I’ve seen awkward exchanges happen over these issues, sometimes to the point of an all-out pros and cons debate. I’ve seen embarrassment when assumptions are made such as, “Oh you must be an alcoholic in recovery.” Or “Why does your church ban drinking?” Yikes. As for me, I fully support these stances and decisions. I have experienced it firsthand as a person who never really got into drinking alcohol and later as a member of a church which includes abstaining from detrimental things as part of a health, value and obedience belief. Experts agree if you are going to serve alcohol, always have some food available first and ample non-alcohol beverage choices. Win-win.

Dear Liz,

Just wanted to share that we live in a generous community. Three times since Thanksgiving someone had paid for my gasoline and twice paid my bill at the drive through. As a senior on a fixed income these are huge gifts to me and beyond the money. They remind me of the good in the world. And that southern hospitality is real. And that God lives. I’ve always believed we are His hands here on Earth. A resounding thank you for the generosity I have received.

Grateful

Dear “Grateful,”

How beautiful. And thank you for sharing this beautiful uplifting message of hope. So many people I talk to have had a rough 2019 and are struggling now during the holiday season. It’s the little things, especially acts of kindness, which become the greatest gifts. And are most pleasing to God. What a great habit to develop and continue into the New Year. We are all in this together. And never forget, the best thing you can spend on your kids is time.

Contact Liz via asklizchs@outlook.com. Liz Brisacher Sharp is a Master degree level Licensed Professional Counselor in private practice with 35 years experience in mental health.

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