Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

Child Neglected at Home Needs Attention at School

DEAR READERS: I'll be on vacation between Aug. 18 and Aug. 31. Don't panic -- I've selected some of my favorite letters from past years to fill the gap. I hope you enjoy them.

DEAR ABBY: My 5-year-old daughter, Penny, is in a gifted children's class in public school. She has a classmate, Randy, who is a handsome, kind little fellow, but Penny says that no one likes him because he is dirty. She says he wears the same dirty jeans and T-shirt, his tennis shoes are holey, the laces untied, he never wears socks or underwear and he could really use a bath.

I told her that we like or dislike people because of the way they behave, not the way they dress, the color of their skin, the way they wear their hair, or what church they go or don't go to.

Penny likes Randy and has become his friend. (She's the only friend he has.)

I've considered writing Randy's mother a note telling her in a nice way that her son is being discriminated against because of his neglected appearance. I've also considered buying the boy some new clothes and underwear. Or should I just mind my own business? Maybe you have a suggestion on how to help Randy. -- OPEN FOR SUGGESTIONS

DEAR OPEN: Because you know nothing about Randy's home life (he may not even have a mother), express your concern to Randy's teacher. A child who comes to school dirty, ill-clad and so obviously neglected needs help. School authorities are in close touch with agencies that provide assistance to abused and neglected youngsters. A child in need is everybody's business. Thank you for caring.

DEAR ABBY: Our 21-year-old grandson, who has always been the apple of our eye, has just announced that he is the "proud" father of a baby boy born to his 20-year-old girlfriend. They are living together, he has a good job, but no mention has been made of any forthcoming marriage. They just say they are "engaged."

My wife and I have decided that until they get married we are not giving them a wedding present. We gave our granddaughter a generous cash wedding gift after her wedding, and we are prepared to do the same for this grandson, but not until -- regardless of how many illegitimate children he has!

Also, do you think a baby gift is in order for an illegitimate child? -- UNCERTAIN IN MINNESOTA

DEAR UNCERTAIN: Wedding gifts are for couples who are wedded -- not merely bedded. But do send a gift for the baby. And please don't label him "illegitimate." There are no illegitimate children -- only illegitimate parents.

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I just returned from our first vacation without our kids. We've been married for 13 years, have four kids, and it was a real treat.

My wife's parents saw us off at the airport, and just as we were taking off, my mother-in-law asked, "Did you make a will in case something happens to both of you at the same time?" Then she laughed as though it was some kind of joke.

Of course we hadn't made a will. I realize there's always a one-in-a-million chance that our plane would crash and we'd both be killed, but her question stayed on my mind during our whole vacation, and I have to tell you, it sort of spoiled it for me.

Wasn't that a lousy thing for her to say? -- STILL UPSET

DEAR UPSET: Her timing was lousy. But the idea was a good one.

DEAR READERS: If you would like your letter considered for publication, please include your name, area code and telephone number.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, 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. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600