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by Abigail Van Buren

Make Yours Good Neighbors by Showing How It's Done

DEAR ABBY: While riding in the funeral procession to bury my grandmother, my family noticed that a Texan had stopped, turned on his headlights and held his five-gallon hat to his chest. Abby, he was driving a loaded 18-wheeler! God bless him.

Our garbage collector usually pulls into our driveway to turn around. But if I've forgotten to set my garbage out, he will honk to remind me and wait for me to bring it.

Our mail carrier is a sweetheart -- always careful to place our packages where they won't get wet.

These folks go above and beyond to make the lives of others easier. How I wish I could say the same about the next-door neighbors we got when we moved here from out of state last year. They are tough nuts to crack, but I hope they'll eventually warm up to us new folks, as our last neighbors did.

Whatever happened to taking a cake over and introducing yourself to the newcomers? Simple courtesies make a big difference. -- THE NEW NEIGHBORS IN INDUSTRY, PA.

DEAR NEW NEIGHBORS: The custom of "taking a cake" may have begun to die around the time that love beads came in and "kaffee klatches" went out. I found only one reference to "welcoming the neighbors" in any of my etiquette books, and even that one makes no reference to pastry. "The Amy Vanderbilt Complete Book of Etiquette, Entirely Rewritten and Updated" by Nancy Tuckerman and Nancy Dunnan (Doubleday, 1995) states that new neighbors should be welcomed, "... by dropping them a note introducing yourself and offering to help them in any way you can."

Since the Welcome Wagon seems to be running behind schedule in your neighborhood, take a moment to look at your predicament from a different cultural point of view:

DEAR ABBY: I have been an avid fan for many years. A letter in your column a few weeks ago from long-suffering neighbors who had been ignored for 25 years, and your reply, "Nothing separates like silence ..." brings to mind a local custom that is deeply rooted in Japanese social behavior.

Upon moving to a new residence, the newcomer will soon offer his closest neighbors a token friendship gift of food, flowers or fruit. A suitable token gift will always be returned in a few days with a smile and a few kind words.

I have lived in Japan for 22 of my 65 years, have moved many times and have never lived next door to inhospitable neighbors. The key seems to be to knock on their door; do not wait for them to knock on yours. -- WILLIAM H. LEWIS, OKINAWA, JAPAN

DEAR MR. LEWIS (AND NEW NEIGHBORS IN INDUSTRY CITY, PA.): Sound advice, indeed. Sometimes waiting for someone else to make the first move can be the longest wait in the world.

YOUR CHUCKLE FOR THE DAY: The man with the best job in the country is the vice president. All he has to do is get up every morning and say, "How's the president?" -- WILL ROGERS (1879-1935)

For an excellent guide to becoming a better conversationalist and a more attractive person, order "How to Be Popular." Send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby Popularity Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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