Dear Annie: My wife and I are approaching 50 years of marriage. Recently, we went on a cruise with her childhood friend, “Cindy,” and her husband, “Rob.” They have been friends since elementary school and Cindy was the maid of honor at our wedding.

During the cruise, Rob made a joke of a comment Cindy made, and I laughed at the delivery, no malice intended. Rob laughed, too.

A few moments later, Cindy told me I was rude and had always been rude. This took me by surprise because I’ve known her and thought we were friends for more than 40 years. I apologized for hurting her feelings and asked her to accept my apology. She turned her back to me and walked away, not saying anything.

Since that incident, I have avoided her. I just tolerate her presence for my wife’s sake. My wife doesn’t know that this incident took place, and I won’t ever mention it to her for fear that their long relationship will be damaged. If it ever comes to light, it won’t come from me.

I was not aware that she harbored such feelings all these years and I resolved to move on from that uncomfortable incident. Life is too short to harbor resentment. It doesn’t have a place in my heart, just forgiveness.

— Moving on Toward the Sun

Dear Moving on Toward the Sun: I wouldn’t take this single conversation to mean the entire 40 years of friendship was a sham and she’s always harbored resentment toward you. Her husband made the joke; you just laughed at. It sounds as though he might be the one whom she’s really frustrated with, but you got caught in the crossfire.

In any case, I think you should share with your wife what happened. You needn’t present it as you vs. Cindy. Recount the incident, being sympathetic to Cindy in your telling, and express your concern and confusion. Perhaps your wife can help patch things over or offer some insight into Cindy’s behavior; perhaps not. But she is your wife, and you shouldn’t keep things from her, even though you’re doing so with the best of intentions.

Dear Annie: A few days ago, I was at a grocery store that was packed. Every cashier had long lines. There was a beautiful little girl, maybe 3 or 4 years old, in the line next to me who saw a Minnie Mouse balloon that she loved. I mean, REALLY loved.

I decided, what the heck, I’ll get it for her (first asking her parents if it was OK), because my twin girls are 16 and long past the age of being delighted by balloons. I tell this not to show how nice I am, but to relate what happened next.

The gentleman behind me cleaned the conveyor belt for the cashier. Someone else invited an older lady to go ahead of her in line. A young man paid for a harassed mother’s diapers and formula. It was as though the whole store got nicer and politer. Each kindness has a chain reaction, but usually you don’t get to see it. This time I did, and it was SO COOL.

— Choose to Be Kind

Dear Choose to Be Kind: Kindness is catching. Not only did your consideration ripple outward to everyone in that store: it’s now inspired me and, I’d wager, many reading this to try to be just a little more generous today. Thanks for writing.

Annie Lane, a graduate of New York Law School and New York University, writes this column for Creators Syndicate. Email questions to dearannie@creators.com.

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