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by Abigail Van Buren

Man Who Helped Hitchikers Put His Life in Their Hands

DEAR ABBY: When I saw that letter from "Worried," whose husband picks up hitchhikers, I had to write. He may do it because it makes him feel good, but he should listen to his wife. Or maybe he would rather hear it from me. I've had firsthand experience.

My grandfather was also a kind man. One day that kindness led to tragedy. He had always said if he needed a ride, he hoped someone would pick him up. One day, he saw a young man walking on the highway "thumbing" a ride. My grandfather couldn't ignore the man, so he gave him a ride. That was the last ride my grandfather gave anybody. He was brutally beaten to death. He was thrown into a ditch, with only a blanket to cover him. His body was discovered a week later by a bus full of schoolchildren returning from spring vacation.

Because of his age and "good behavior," my grandfather's killer served only a few years for his crime.

"Worried" should ask her husband to read this letter. Perhaps then he will realize that someday my grandfather's story may be his own. I know how this hurt our family. I hope my letter will save another family from a similar tragedy. -- CONCERNED IN WASHINGTON

DEAR CONCERNED: I, too, hope your letter will serve as a warning to other kindhearted but misguided souls.

Never pick up a hitchhiker. If someone appears stranded on a street or highway, the prudent way to lend assistance is to notify the police, sheriff or highway patrol.

DEAR ABBY: As a professional who works with grieving individuals on a daily basis, I would like to offer another opinion to the person who wrote you advising that food brought to grieving people be brought in disposable containers or "garage sale castoffs" rather than in containers that need to be returned.

Abby, returning the empty container is the important part. It becomes a way for the grieving individual to have contact with the person who sent the food. That subsequent contact may be more needed than the food that came in the container.

People who are grieving need contact with others, and this is a good way to get it. -- PAUL V. JOHNSON, DIRECTOR OF AFTERCARE SERVICES, ST. PAUL, MINN.

DEAR MR. JOHNSON: You make an excellent point.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to a recent letter in your column regarding dental patients who do not brush their teeth before their dental appointments.

I can understand the dental hygienist's chagrin. But I want to know what to say to a dentist when he has bad breath. On occasion, my dentist could use some mouthwash -- but I just don't know how to tell him. Do you have any ideas? -- GAGGING IN OHIO

DEAR GAGGING: How you tell people they have bad breath is not a problem. It's whether you have the courage to tell them that could be a problem.

If your relationship with the dentist is cordial, you might smile and say, "What's it going to be -- a mint, some mouthwash or a mask?" If you've caught your dentist unaware, the next question will be, "What do you mean?" to which you can respond, "You're about to wilt me with your dragon's breath."

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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