DEAR ABBY: I spent the afternoon running errands. As I left the shopping center, I saw a young couple with a baby and a toddler holding a sign requesting help with food, as the husband had just been laid off. I drove past, then considered the children and circled back.
I had no cash with me, so I stopped and offered them our family's dinner -- a jar of premium spaghetti sauce, a pound of fresh ground beef, a box of dried spaghetti, fruit cups that my children usually take to school for treats, and some canned soups I occasionally have for lunch.
Imagine my surprise when the couple declined my generosity. Instead, the man strongly suggested that I should go to a nearby ATM and withdraw cash to donate to them because they preferred to select their own groceries and pay their phone bills. What are your thoughts on this? -- GENUINELY PUZZLED IN AUSTIN, TEXAS
DEAR PUZZLED: What happened is a shame. Some families are truly in need and should be guided to a shelter so they can receive help getting back on their feet. However, in some cities you see the same people on the same streets for long periods of time. They have staked out their "turf," and because the money they are given is tax-free, some of them are doing quite well. In your case, the couple you saw holding the sign may have been professional panhandlers, and the children may have been "borrowed."
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I have been separated for a year and I have filed for divorce. We have reached an agreement about everything except one thing: our tortoise. This may seem strange, but Herbert has always been our "child." I think of him as my kid, and I believe my husband when he says he loves him that much, too. We got Herbert as a baby that fit into the palm of my hand. Herbert is now 9, very large and lives in the backyard in a "doghouse" structure.
The problem is, my husband still wants to see Herbert. He agrees that he will visit only when I am not at home. I don't distrust him or worry he will try to take Herbert, but I just don't want him here.
I know that if Herbert is mine legally, I won't have to let anyone see him. Once our divorce is final, I want nothing more to do with my husband and he knows that. But it's like telling someone he could never see his kid again. I'd really like to know your thoughts. -- NICOLE IN SANFORD, FLA.
DEAR NICOLE: Because you can't split Herbert in half, why not consider shared custody? If your husband can provide a safe place for the tortoise to stay while he's with "Daddy," you could work out an agreement so that you could exchange your "kid" at a neutral place -- such as your veterinarian's office -- and you wouldn't have to see your husband and vice versa.
DEAR ABBY: My husband and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary next summer, and we're planning to renew our vows. I'm trying to decide if I should wear my original wedding gown. (I wore it on our 25th anniversary.)
Would it be in good taste to wear the same dress, or should I go with something else? We'll be inviting some of the same people who attended the 25th anniversary party. -- MARY IN ALBUQUERQUE
DEAR MARY: Congratulations on your long and happy marriage. If you can still fit into your original wedding dress, by all means wear it. I consider it an accomplishment. You'll be the envy of most of the women at your celebration, and probably some of the men.
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