Monday, March 1, 2010

Uncomfortable Gift Requests at Work

Recently, one of my coworkers lost her father after a long battle with a terminal illness. She took the last week off from work to grieve and deal with family business. Today, she came back to work, and one of my other coworkers passed around an envelope containing a sympathy card.

The catch? There was a note on the envelope asking for cash to be given in her father's name as a gift to a local church.

Being the nonconfrontational person I am, I was a little irritated at first, but not enough to raise a stink about it. I simply signed the card with my condolences and an offer to lend her an ear if she needed someone to talk to, then passed the card off to the next person on the list. I considered the idea of asking her if there was anything else I could do in her father's memory, but quickly dismissed the idea as (obviously) a little insensitive.

I'd like to make up for not chipping in on this gift, but I'm not quite sure what to do. Most of my coworkers are Catholic, and asking them for alternatives would almost certainly lead to an uncomfortable discussion about religion that I really don't need to have in the middle of my workday. I'd talk to my parents, except that they seem to be confusing "I'm an atheist" with "I'm a nontraditional Christian who is struggling with his faith." I figure my best bet is to toss the question out onto the web, and hope something comes up in the net: What could I do to honor her father's memory without offending her and bringing up subjects that aren't really appropriate for work?