Dear Abby

Wealthy Friends' Generosity Troubles Middle Class Couple

DEAR ABBY: Our best friends, "Bill and Melinda," are financially well-off. My husband and I make just enough to get by. We have been friends for a long time, are extremely close and always have a good time together.

Bill and Melinda are always inviting us to go with them on expensive trips. When we say we can't afford it, they insist on paying. Abby, we don't WANT them to pay for it! We don't want to be indebted and are afraid they'll end up holding it over our heads.

Even when they pay for airfare and lodging, it still costs us a lot in meals and "fun" money. We try to pay for everything we can so we don't feel like freeloaders. Bill and Melinda don't seem to understand the financial strain these "vacations" put on us. They even offered to buy us a membership to their country club. When we explain that we're uncomfortable with them paying for everything, they tell us they don't want to go on these trips without us and that the money is no big deal.

How can we make them understand that we appreciate their generosity but are uncomfortable accepting their charity? We love them and our friendship but fear the money issue may drive a wedge between us. -- MRS. MIDDLE CLASS

DEAR MRS. MIDDLE CLASS: While the disparity in your financial means is a sensitive issue for you, please consider this: Your friends have been blessed with financial success. But while money can buy company, it isn't the basis for true friendship. You and your husband and Bill and Melinda share a lot of history and a special relationship, and they want to share their good fortune.

So accept some of their invitations. Repay their hospitality in thoughtful ways you can afford -- a meal at your home, a cookout or a picnic. But I see no reason why you should not accept their generosity in the spirit in which it's intended.

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DEAR ABBY: Whatever happened to the idea of keeping to the right? Most drivers observe this rule in their cars, but as soon as their feet hit the pavement, all memory of it vanishes. Our sidewalks, airports, grocery stores and shopping malls have become free-for-alls.

I was taught in school that keeping to the right prevents accidents. People have crashed into me with their grocery carts as I made a right turn from one aisle to the next and they are making a left turn along the left side. Then they look at me as if I'm in the wrong place.

Rules like this are designed to make life easier. It seems a growing number of people don't realize this is common courtesy or just don't care. I hope that by mentioning this in your column that it will remind people so our sidewalks, stores and malls will be safer for all who are walking.

If people will remember to stay to the right and pass on the left, they will see that these important rules of the road make all traffic move more smoothly. -- TIRED OF THE DO-SI-DO IN ATLANTA

DEAR TIRED: I'm pleased to print your reminder that there would be fewer collisions -- of every kind -- if we practiced good manners more of the time. And speaking as someone who has sashayed up my share of the center of supermarket aisles, I promise to be more careful in the future. Good manners are a manifestation of the respect and concern we have for others.

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