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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: Recently I was asked about President James A. Garfield's "Rules for Living." When I confessed I had not seen them, many of you were kind enough to send them to me.

They were evidently given to a young James A. Garfield by an elderly friend, and Garfield cherished them to the end of his life. So for "A Moment in History," who asked for them, and for all of my readers who will surely enjoy them, here are President James A. Garfield's cherished personal principles:

-- Never be idle.

-- Make few promises.

-- Always speak the truth.

-- Live within your income.

-- Never speak evil of anyone.

-- Keep good company or none.

-- Live up to your engagements.

-- Never play games of chance.

-- Drink no intoxicating drinks.

-- Good character is above everything else.

-- Keep your own secrets if you have any.

-- Never borrow if you can possibly help it.

-- Do not marry until you are able to support a wife.

-- When you speak to a person, look into his eyes.

-- Save when you are young to spend when you are old.

-- Never run into debt unless you see a way out again.

-- Good company and good conversation are the sinews of virtue.

-- Your character cannot be essentially injured except by your own acts.

-- If anybody speaks evil of you, let your life be so that no one believes him.

-- When you retire at night, think over what you have done during the day.

-- If your hands cannot be employed usefully, attend to the culture of your mind.

-- Read the above carefully and thoughtfully at least once a week.

DEAR ABBY: We recently moved to a new city, and our new telephone number once belonged to a doctor's office. (The doctor has moved to the other side of town.) We frequently find phone messages on our answering machine from people attempting to contact this doctor. One man left a message in minute detail about which vertebrae his wife injured while she was dancing. Another individual left three messages in two hours. He was obviously in extreme pain, begging the doctor to call him.

Our new number is also very close to that of a "Jason." Although the greeting on our machine clearly states that Kraig and Lisa live at this number, we often get messages for him, too. His bank called about his savings account; a car dealer called about a new model he thought Jason might like; a few of his friends were in town for the weekend and called about getting together.

We are often tempted to call these people back and tell them they reached the wrong number, but we remind ourselves that we are not someone else's answering service.

For a while, we had a hilarious message -- obviously not that of a doctor's office. Finally, in desperation, we changed our greeting to: "Kraig and Lisa cannot come to the phone right now. Please leave a message after the tone. And by the way, this is not a doctor's office and Jason doesn't live here." That seemed to do the trick! -- KRAIG AND LISA, CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA

DEAR KRAIG AND LISA: Thanks for your letter. As more and more people use telephone answering machines, it is important for callers to listen to the machine's "greeting" to be certain they have reached the right number before leaving a message. Callers could be leaving a message for someone who will never receive it if they have dialed the wrong number. (Press the star key if you comprehend this message.)

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