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by Abigail Van Buren

'Angel' Delivers Christmas Miracle to Grateful Family

DEAR ABBY: I don't know whether this qualifies as an act of kindness or the work of an angel, but here it is:

One Christmas several years ago, my children and I were at my sister's in the country. After the festivities, the kids settled down to watch a movie while we cleaned up the kitchen.

Sometime during the movie, my 8-year-old son, Tim, became bored and slipped outside without anyone noticing. It was one of the coldest winters on record, and Tim wanted to see the ice on the pond some distance from the house.

He slipped, fell through the ice and into the pond, which was about 15 feet deep. He managed to cling to a chunk of ice and scream for help, but he was too far from the house for any of us to hear.

A man driving on the two-lane country road heard Tim's screams. He found my son and managed to pull him to safety with a piece of rope he had in his car.

The man drove Tim to my sister's house, where we immediately ripped off his frozen clothes and put him in the whirlpool bath they had just installed. By the time we returned from the bathroom, the man had disappeared.

That man saved my son's life. To this day, I secretly think he was an angel, but if he was a mortal, I am forced to believe in the universal goodness of humankind.

When I am feeling depressed, I remember that incident. There may be a great deal that's wrong with this country, but there's also a great deal that's right. -- REBECCA WURM, CLUTE, TEXAS

DEAR REBECCA: That was a Christmas miracle if ever I heard one, guardian angel and all.

DEAR ABBY: I hope you will permit me to respond to a recent letter you printed from a reader who complained of problems with blushing and embarrassment, asking what could be done about it.

I was surprised that the advice offered was essentially that nothing could be done for the problem. It sounded to me as though the writer was suffering from symptoms of social phobia, the most common form of anxiety disorder, affecting 14 percent of the population.

Blushing, sweating, trembling or heart palpitations are quite frequent physical signs of this disorder, which is characterized by fear of scrutiny or fear of humiliation/embarrassment in front of others. It can be a disabling and extremely distressing state, about which the medical profession has been largely ignorant.

I should like to point out that there are now several highly effective treatments for social phobia, including anti-depressant and anti-anxiety drugs. Also, non-medication behavioral treatments are effective. Sufferers from social phobia frequently profit by attending a phobia support group, which exists in most communities. -- JONATHAN R.T. DAVIDSON, M.D., DIRECTOR, ANXIETY AND TRAUMATIC STRESS PROGRAM, DUKE UNIVERSITY MEDICAL CENTER

DEAR DR. DAVIDSON: I'm sure that many readers will join me in thanking you for this information. This was news to me, and I'm certain it will be to many others.

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