On being polite, helpful or/and honest

“I felt I could help ease things for you a bit by bringing something (and it would also be the polite way of doing things …)”, a friend of mine writes in a text message. I smile. We invited her and her husband over to our place for an evening together – and for a shared meal of Raclette. Immediately after accepting the invitation she asked whether they could bring anything. I declined her offer – hence her surprisingly honest reply.

I know how it is: you are invited to someone else’s home, you have to get the kids ready for bed and the babysitter, you haven’t yet shaken off the stresses of the working week and you are looking forward to an evening out. Sometimes, having to bring something is the last thing on earth you want to do. Out of politeness you still offer your help, but actually you want to be just a guest with no responsibility for two hours – not even having to take back the leftovers of your little contribution to the evening.

On the other hand: as parents of younger kids you sometimes want to invite someone over for an evening. Perhaps you feel a bit daunted by the work it involves – but, out of politeness, you don´t feel free to ask for help. Because of this, I sometimes ask (especially the hosts who have younger kids): “Can I bring anything?” I don’t want to be polite, I want to help ease things a bit for the other one. Sometimes I get an honest answer.