DEAR ABBY: Your letters about chivalry prompted mine. Years ago, I was standing in a crowded post office. There was a long wooden bench where customers could wait for their number to be called for their turn at the counter. Many people were standing that day.
I was in my 20s at the time and had four small children with me, when a man who appeared to be in his 70s struggled up off the bench and offered me his seat. He obviously needed it far more than I, so I refused his offer. He said a man couldn't even be a gentleman anymore. I have remembered his hurt all these 30 years. I'll never forgive myself for that thoughtless act.
Since then I have always thanked every man who steps aside, assists me, holds a door or offers me a seat. I am blessed to have a husband who does all those things for me -- even after more than 20 years together -- and I appreciate every gesture, no matter how small.
I hope that all the gentlemen who read your column will accept my gratitude. Some of us can do it for ourselves, but we also know that everyone can use kindness and assistance sometimes. -- CHARLA IN ROSEMEAD, CALIF.
DEAR CHARLA: I agree. Good manners dictate that every kindness we receive -- large or small -- be gratefully acknowledged.
DEAR ABBY: I was invited to share Christmas with a group of friends and family. We had a wonderful time. After dinner, gifts were exchanged, and the hostess made sure that each guest had a gift.
As we sat talking over coffee, I was appalled when one of the women reached into a kitchen drawer, pulled out some plastic bags and proceeded to fill them with food to take home. Have things changed this much?
When I was raised, people didn't help themselves to anything in another person's house. It was my understanding that if you brought a gift or a dish to the party, it was the property of the hostess to serve or not as she saw fit.
I actually saw one lady put an entire loaf of bread into her bag. The hostess had almost nothing left. I overheard her husband ask, ''What happened to the bread we had for dinner? I'd like a sandwich.'' Imagine, not enough left for a sandwich!
When you bring a dish to a party, do you scoop it up and take whatever is left home with you? Do you fix yourself a ''doggie bag'' without the hostess's permission, knowledge or consent? Abby, isn't what goes into a hostess's house hers to do with as she wishes? -- STUMPED IN NEBRASKA
DEAR STUMPED: When a guest brings food to a dinner party, it is considered a gift for the hostess. She is not obligated to serve it as part of the meal, and is within her rights to pop it into the freezer to enjoy at another time if she chooses.
Well-mannered guests do not remove anything from the house without being invited to do so by their host or hostess.
DEAR ABBY: After receiving sympathy cards after a death in the family, how are they displayed -- or are they displayed at all? -- BARBARA IN PHILADELPHIA
DEAR BARBARA: If it would be comforting to you to display the sympathy cards and letters of support you received, I see no reason why they couldn't be displayed on a shelf or tabletop. However, typically such cards and letters are placed in an album with the death announcement and, perhaps, some photos of the deceased, or in a keepsake box or decorative basket.
DEAR ABBY: I was recently driving on a Southern California freeway. About 25 feet in front of me, a car in the other lane had an arm pointing out the window, ''shooting'' a gun at people. Because it was a bright, sunny day, I could see the arm belonged to a young child whose gun was only a toy.
Had this incident occurred at night, however, I would never have known it was a child pointing a toy gun. I might have thought it was an adult pointing a real gun. The results could have been tragic for the kid and anyone else in the car.
Abby, I don't think children should be allowed to have toy guns, but if their parents allow it, that's their choice. These same parents should realize that in certain circumstances -- and even neighborhoods -- those guns may not be SEEN as toys.
In this sometimes crazy world we live in, situations like this probably do occur and often with dreadful endings. There is no reason for something like this to happen. I hope parents of small children who have toy guns will prevent their kids from doing this before it's too late. -- CONCERNED COMMUTER, SANTA ANA, CALIF.
DEAR CONCERNED: On behalf of parents of small children everywhere, thank you for the warning. For safety's sake, children riding in vehicles should wear seatbelts and keep their hands and arms inside at all times. And since it's not unusual for incidents of road rage and drive-by shootings to appear on the evening news, parents should be especially careful about letting their children play with toy weapons while riding in automobiles. At the risk of sounding overly cautious, it could avert a tragedy.
DEAR ABBY: I am a 19-year-old woman who, against my parent's wishes, was recently married. They didn't attend my wedding and told me they would disown me if I got pregnant before I was 24 or so.
Well, three weeks after we were married I became pregnant. I'm now a month along and my husband's family knows all about it. How do I tell my family? They're already mad at me for dropping out of college and refusing to pay them back for what they agreed to pay for, and I'm afraid this will terminate any relationship we have.
I don't know what to do. Any advice you could give me would be helpful. -- SCARED TO SPEAK UP
DEAR SCARED: Waste no time in telling your mother the joyous news that she'll be a grandmother by the end of next summer. Since your in-laws already know the big news, and your pregnancy will be showing in no time, attempting to keep it a secret would be like trying to smuggle dawn past a rooster.
You are an adult now, and it's time you began shouldering responsibility for your actions. Your parents' disappointment in you might be lessened if you show the willingness and maturity to work out a payment plan for the money they feel is owed them.
P.S. I'm betting they won't disown you after all.
DEAR ABBY: I have been living with a widower of 11 years for the past 10 years. He still insists on putting flowers on his dead wife's grave after all this time. I feel that I am being played second fiddle to his wife. Am I wrong to feel this way? -- SECOND FIDDLE IN VIRGINIA
DEAR SECOND FIDDLE: Yes, you are wrong. Your gentleman friend's devotion to the memory of his deceased wife has nothing to do with his relationship with you -- unless YOU choose to regard it as a competition. That line of thought is destructive to a relationship. Instead, regard his gesture as a measure of the amount of love he has to give to you. He sounds like a gem.
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