Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

Deacon Paul and Helen McBlain, members of St. Joseph Parish in Collingdale, have been married more than 50 years and have seven children and 21 grandchildren.

She says:

Emily says: I enjoy the holidays! I also love to cook and delight in having my parents and my mom’s brother for dinner for the holidays. I go all out for this special time of the year. One vexing problem presents itself with my elderly uncle who is used to smoking indoors. We, on the other hand, do not smoke. The stink of his cigarettes, or worse, his cigars, really puts a damper on our holiday festivities.

My mother does not want me to ask our uncle to smoke outside due to his age and the cold weather in December. I have explained to Uncle Louie how we would prefer he not smoke indoors while visiting. We do not provide ash trays.

Uncle Louie still smokes, using an empty soda can or a plate for his ashes. Truly, I am at my wit’s end with this, even to thinking I would not invite him to join us.

“Be gracious to me, Lord, for I am in distress; with grief, my eyes are wasted, my soul and body spent” (Psalm 31:10).

He says:

Justin says: I like Uncle Louie a lot! He is my mother-in-law’s only brother. Our two kids like Louie, too, especially when he shares his exploits about when he worked as a clown in the circus or tells them stories of when he spent five years as a cowboy on a ranch out West.

Uncle Louie is a character! Never married. Always went his own way in life. I don’t mind his smoking as much as Emily and figure we can deal with this horrible habit for one evening.


Emily is a great cook, and I agree with her that the smoke puts a damper on the great olfactory delight of the turkey dinner and what-have-you, but we should be able to manage to accommodate this old guy for one night.

“I call upon you; answer me, O God. Turn your ear to me; hear my prayer” (Psalm 17:6).

What do they do?  

Uncle Louie sounds like a tough nut to crack. It appears he rarely, if ever, needed to consider other people’s feelings or rules. As Christians, we do make an effort to be kind and accepting; however, people have the right to create rules. It is OK to request a restriction on smoking in a private home. Such restrictions exist in many public areas, even bars and restaurants. Emily and Justin first need to agree what exactly they will be expecting from Louie’s behavior.

If they do impose a “No Smoking Inside” rule, they could provide a sheltered area outside for Uncle Louie to grab some smokes during the evening. This couple needs to go directly to Uncle Louie to share their plan for his need to smoke.

Mom should not be a part of the communication process as she has sabotaged this in the past with her support of the inside smoking. Get together with Uncle Louie before the holidays to explain your plan for his smoking area. Be sure to let Louie know how special he is to your family, making sure you all enjoy him tremendously … just not the smoke.

An alternative plan could be to meet with Louie and present the problem. Invite Uncle Louie to help you develop a solution to this problem. Let him know how important it is for you to have him for the holiday celebration. Let him know how much the story-telling is important to you and your children. Share that you like him a lot … but not the smoke.

Explaining your feelings in a positive and loving manner may provide a path for you and Uncle Louie to reach some middle ground, or even Louie’s cooperation.  There is a theorem that we have used previously with our children that we may be able to apply in this situation:

  1. Describe what you see.
  2. Describe how you feel.
  3. Describe what needs to be done.

For example, you could share:

  1. We are aware that you have smoked in our home on past visits despite our requesting you smoke outside.
  2. When you smoke in our home we feel (fill in the blank) about the indoor smoke.
  3. We need to work together to find a way for you to enjoy your smokes, but not inside while you visit us during the holidays.

Louie may surprise you by agreeing to use that sheltered area.

“Then all who take refuge in you will be glad and forever shout for joy” (Psalm 5:12).