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

by Abigail Van Buren

Godparent Plays Minor Role and Never Is Given the Lead

DEAR ABBY: I need to know what is required of godparents. I have two godchildren. My problem is, even though I make myself available at all times (birthdays, school illnesses, any time the parents need a break, etc.), I am not being utilized.

In both cases we stood before God in a church service and made vows to be accessible to the children, and I have been. I have spoken to both sets of parents and made it perfectly clear that I want to be in each child's life, yet whenever the parents need any assistance with their children, they turn to grandma and grandpa. I have gifts of toys and clothing that my godchildren have outgrown by now, so after many calls went unreturned, I've given up trying.

I am concerned that years from now, when the kids are in their late teens, the parents will seek me out for help with money for college and cars. Please help. -- AN M.D. IN D.C.

DEAR M.D.: While in theory a godparent is responsible for the spiritual guidance of a child in accordance with his or her family's religion, in practice the obligation may be no more than that of any close friend of the family.

Contrary to what some might assume, there is no requirement to provide financial assistance. However, a godparent does customarily give a birthday and possibly a Christmas gift until the godchild is grown. You need not worry about future financial obligations to the children, but you should ask the parents what their expectations were when they asked you to assume this solemn and significant role.

DEAR ABBY: Please inform potential employers and the general public that not all ex-convicts are lifelong criminals who should never again be trusted.

I would like to hear from your millions of readers how they would answer my question: By taking away most of my constitutional rights and severely limiting my employment opportunities for the rest of my life, how is that going to protect society or give me an incentive to go straight?

My debt (for armed robbery) was paid 22 years ago. -- ROY S., SPARKS, NEV.

DEAR MR. S.: My experts tell me that convicted felons receive due process under the law, and all their rights are returned to them when their sentences have been served and paroles are complete.

However, two PRIVILEGES are withheld: the privilege of owning a gun and the privilege of voting.

DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter about the child who was referred to by the nurse as "the little boy in the wheelchair." That reminded me of the time I was in the hospital for a liver biopsy. Over my head, the nurses kept referring to me as "the liver." They referred to the next patient as "the knee." I heard a nurse say, "We'll do the knee after the liver."

I asked them, out of curiosity, why they refer to people like that, and they explained, "We see so many people in one day it would be confusing to refer to people by their names. It helps keep things straight by naming the part of the body scheduled to be worked on." I looked up at them and said, "It's a good thing I'm not in here for hemorrhoids!" -- D.L. IN DALLAS

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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