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Q: My neighbor keeps doing favors I did not ask for—watering my lawn, shoveling my driveway, dropping my newspaper on my porch, etc. I want to be grateful but sometimes I enjoy doing this work myself. How can I respectfully decline his kindness?
—Thanks but no thanks
A: I’ve never been much of a fan of the expression “it’s a good problem to have,” because—as a person who generally prefers the path of least resistance in all things—no problem is a good problem as far as I’m concerned. Choosing Christmas card designs wears me out, for heaven’s sake. I prefer a problem-free life, no matter the nature of the problems.
With that in mind, I felt for your trouble as I read your inquiry, even as your situation might fall into the “good problem to have” category for many people. It’s wonderful that you have a thoughtful, energetic, and helpful neighbor. It’s not-so-wonderful that he’s removing tasks from your plate that you would prefer to keep. Given how considerate your neighbor seems to be, I would suggest declining his help in a similarly kind fashion. Perhaps you might bake him cookies or pick some flowers from your yard, and as you deliver the neighborly gift, broach the conversation. A simple, “I so appreciate your help, but I enjoy yard work; would you mind letting me do these tasks?” combined with your warm countenance will convey your desires as well as your respect.