DEAR ABBY: When I was in middle school, I was pretty much an outcast. In the summer between eighth grade and high school, I read a Dear Abby column where you offered advice to someone who was shy like me. You recommended that the writer smile and greet people every day. You also published a booklet to help us to be more outgoing.
When I got to high school, I took your advice. Your column changed my life. During my senior year I became involved in drama, choir and sports, and I was elected student body president.
I am now a mom with two children. I hold a master's degree and have a wide array of friends all over the world. I am a public speaker, poet and actor -- all bacause you wrote to someone like me and told that person how to make friends.
Recently a friend and I were discussing that column, and he said, "I wish I had seen it!" Abby, please repeat those words and let people know if the booklet is still available. Folks of all ages need that message of friendship and guidance. Thank you for the impact it has had on my life. -- RENEE IN WASHINGTON
DEAR RENEE: I'm pleased that my column was so helpful for you at a time when you needed it. I think I know the column you mentioned. The reply echoed advice that's in my booklet "How to Be Popular." It said: "No matter what you wear, the expression on your face is your greatest asset -- or liability. Would you want to strike up a conversation with someone who looks like he (or she) is mad at the world? Well, neither would anyone else. So, if you're wearing a perpetual frown, get rid of it. Trade it for a smile.
"You can walk down the street in any foreign country in the world, and even though you may not be able to understand a word they're saying, when you see a smile, you get a message. It's the universal way of saying, 'I'm friendly.'
"I'm not suggesting you go around with a perpetual phony grin pasted on your face, but try to develop the habit of looking cheerful, pleasant and happy. It attracts."
"How to Be Popular" was written in response to many thousands of letters from readers over the years who are not naturally socially assertive, and others who have asked for guidance on where and how to meet nice people like themselves, what to say or not to say, and how to be the kind of person others will find interesting, attractive and worth knowing better, and can be ordered by sending your name and address, plus check or money order for $6 (U.S. funds) to Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. Shipping and handling are included in the price. Another important observation from the booklet that wasn't in the column you saw is, "There are two kinds of people -- those who come into a room and their attitude says, 'Here I am!' and those who come into a room and their attitude is, 'There you are!
"The 'there-you-are' type is the winner. If you want to receive a warm welcome, remember the happier you are to see others, the happier they'll be to see you."