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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Over a year ago, my husband lost his job of 21 years when his company was sold. This last year has been the most grueling, sad year of our lives. It has brought a drastic change in our lifestyle, the threat of losing our home of 20 years, lower grades for my children, and a host of other traumas.

But one of the most painful realities has been the lack of support from my friends -- wives of highly paid businessmen. I never dreamed my "friends" would be so ignorant of the realities of unemployment. My husband's friends have been terrific. They call often, circulate his resume, take him out to lunch. Except for two or three, my friends have ignored the situation as if I have a contagious disease.

To the many women who are not in the business world, I would like to share these thoughts. Please:

1. Call the families of the unemployed often. The spouse needs to know that someone is there for her.

2. Don't try to find reasons why the person was fired. In the majority of cases, they did nothing wrong.

3. Don't suggest she and her husband "go out to dinner" to cheer up. They have no money.

4. Do invite them to your house even though they may not be able to reciprocate for a while.

5. Don't suggest counseling just because they are unhappy. Of course they are unhappy -- it is a sad time in their lives. The majority of people in this situation need friends, not counselors.

6. Do ask if you can circulate the husband's resume. Remember, less than 10 percent of jobs are received through ads. Most are received through networking.

7. If you receive the resume in the mail, please respond! Send a note or call the person who sent it. Tell them you'll keep your ears open for any possible job opportunities.

8. Be understanding. When someone has one major problem, it is so easy to become short-tempered, run-down and unhappy. Don't remind them that there are people worse off than they are. They know that. They have probably spent much time doing volunteer work helping the less fortunate.

9. Most of all, remember, just because your friends are wearing nice clothes or living in a nice house does not mean they are not hurting. In our case, we haven't purchased anything except food in a year. Needed house repairs have been put on hold. (Just because I don't look like a homeless person doesn't mean I'm not poor.)

The unemployed need your support to get them through these hard times. Please, pick up the phone and call someone today. -- SOMEONE WHO'S BEEN THERE

DEAR BEEN THERE: I am printing your letter because it speaks to everyone -- and very eloquently. It addresses the issue of loyalty among friends. Bad luck is not contagious. Apathy is.

CONFIDENTIAL TO J.L.S.: Relax and be yourself. "The most exhausting thing in life is being insincere." -- ANNE MORROW LINDBERGH

Most teen-agers do not know the facts about drugs, AIDS, and how to prevent unwanted pregnancy. It's all in Abby's updated, expanded booklet, "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054. (Postage is included.)

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