Patheos (& Other) Peeps: Alison Hodgson on Etiquette for Perilous Times

Every Friday, I post a link to a blog post, sometimes written by one of my fellow bloggers at Patheos, a web portal devoted to religion and spirituality, and sometimes by another blogger whose work I admire. I encourage my blog readers to click through to read these posts, comment, and if you like what you read, follow these bloggers as well.

Writer Alison Hodgson appeared on my blog earlier this week with her apt reflection on the precipitous mood swings that we writers live with. Alison describes herself as an expert in “etiquette for perilous times.” She recently wrote three guest blog posts for my editor and friend Jana Riess, covering the etiquette of what not to say in three different perilous situations. Alison comes by this advice honestly, as it arises from her own experiences as the mom of a child with special needs who also watched her family’s home burn down not too long ago. Listen to Alison. She knows what she is talking about.

#1: What Not to Say…to the Parents of Special Needs Kids

#2: What Not to Say…When Someone Loses Their Home

#3: What Not to Say…To Someone Who Offers You Help

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About Ellen Painter Dollar

Ellen Painter Dollar is a writer focusing on faith, parenting, family, disability, and ethics. She is the author of No Easy Choice: A Story of Disability, Faith, and Parenthood in an Age of Advanced Reproduction (Westminster John Knox, 2012). Visit her web site at for more on her writing and speaking, and to sign up for a (very) occasional email newsletter.

  • Tim

    Thanks for the links, Ellen. I wanted to comment there for Alison, but it requtred special registration so I thought I’d do it here in case she’s checking in.

    Accepting help is hard, almost as hard as knowing how to offer help the right way. I’ve found that prayer is a good way to start. Someone I knew lost her house to a fire and her family was going to be staying in a hotel for a while. I asked around about how many kids she had and then bought Jamba Juice cards for the three of them because there was a store near the hotel, figuring this would give the kids something happy to look forward to while staying in the hotel (kids around here love Jamba Juice). I dropped the cards off with her husband in front of their burned out home one morning, then never heard more about it until a couple years later and from an unexpected source.

    I was getting coffee from my regular spot one morning and the guy who usually filled me up said it turned out we had a mutual friend: the mom whose house burnde down. He said to me, “I knew you were ok, but I didn’t realize just how nice you can be.” I asked him what he meant, and he said she had recently told him about the Jamba Juice cards.

    You never know what’s going to stick with people.


    • Alison Hodgson

      Tim, that was such a great thing to do. I love how you thought of the kids and found something that’s universally enjoyed and convenient in relation to where the family was staying. The great thing about giving to the children of a family in crisis is that you give to the parents too. And you’re right, you never know what sticks with people. Relatively small gifts can loom in the recipient’s imagination for years.