My brother is having a hard time. He’s been unemployed for more than a year. His wife is struggling with a life-threatening cancer. They have three young children. I’m trying to do what I can for them in the way of cooking and cleaning and child care and general support, but things are grim and my brother’s mood is grimmer: he hates to even leave the house.

But I had an idea. A friend of mine, an actress, is performing in a play my brother loves in a city not too far from his home. Can I buy my brother and his family tickets to the show, and a hotel room for the night, and tell him these perks were “comped” to me because of my friend? Can I lie to my brother, in other words, to protect his dignity and give him a little temporary relief from his circumstances? I’m afraid that if I try to give this to him as a gift, he will never accept.

Big Sister