Q. At this time of year my mailbox is filled with appeals from many different charities. Some include gifts that I did not order and do not want. Do I have an obligation to send a donation to reimburse the charity for their gift? Can I use what they have sent me even if I do not send a donation?
A. Charitable fund-raising is particularly effective during the year-end holidays. That is why you receive so many appeals. You have no obligation to respond to any solicitation. If a gift is enclosed you may use it freely, since it was unsolicited, or you may dispose of it without any other thought. The charities count these gifts as premiums and fully understand that only a small percentage will result in a donation to their cause.
Q. There are many jokes about the obnoxious family member who attends the festive dinner and makes everyone uncomfortable. One of my uncles is representative of this stereotype. Do I nonetheless have an obligation to invite him to dinner, even though I fear he will make everyone uncomfortable?
A. There is no Christian or moral obligation to enable bad behavior. Providing a platform for obnoxious behavior is not a virtue. If the person is not willing or unable to join in the festivities without causing a scene, you and your family have no obligation to include him. Perhaps after he is excluded a couple of times he might reexamine himself and make the necessary changes.