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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have taken to heart your suggestions regarding how to help oneself come out of bereavement; that is, to do volunteer work.

My husband died of cancer last March. He was able to remain at home to the end with the help of hospice, which was a godsend.

My parents live on the East Coast and I am way out here on the West Coast, but I have been able to get beyond this with the help of friends and the bereavement support group connected with the hospital. I focused on giving back to society by volunteering at the hospital. Since I work five days a week, I can only do this on Saturday or Sunday, so I am now the receptionist for four hours every Saturday in the intensive care unit.

It has been such a rewarding experience. I have been able to help people simply by being there. At the end of my shift, I feel as though I have been meditating.

I just wanted to let you know that your suggestion to do volunteer work has helped me. -- SHIRLEY IN ELMIRA, ORE.

DEAR SHIRLEY: It gives me great pleasure to know that you were able to lighten your burden because of something you read in my column. Bless you.

DEAR READERS: Many of you responded to Juanita Baker's suggestion that I ask my readers to share unselfish acts of kindness they have experienced. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: When my husband suffered a stroke last year, I needed an extension on the sidewalk next to our home to accommodate his wheelchair. An acquaintance of ours did cement work, so I asked if he'd take the job.

He came in the evenings and worked late, so I know his wife had to delay meals. When he finished, I asked for the bill. He said, "No charge. Maybe you can do a good turn for someone else."

I just stood there and cried. -- DORIS OAKBERG, SACRAMENTO

DEAR ABBY: When Dr. Larry Vancil suffered a cerebral hemorrhage that put him in a coma for weeks and out of his practice for five months, many of his good friends in the dental profession jumped in at a moment's notice and kept his practice going.

These dentists gave up their days off and rearranged their schedules to go to Dr. Vancil's office to treat his patients. What a tremendous loving act of kindness by many! -- CATHY WAYMIRE, FORTVILLE, IND.

DEAR ABBY: Forty years ago, I was a poor student working my way through U.C.-Berkeley. I didn't have enough money to pay my laboratory fees for the courses I wanted to take. Myrtle Mayer, a counselor for young adults in a community church, loaned me the money I needed to stay in school. I kept track of the amount, and when I got a job, I tried to repay Mrs. Mayer. She said, "I didn't miss it ... pass it on."

That has been my motto ever since. "Passing it on" is the best way to repay a kindness. -- ADINA WIENS ROBINSON, TIBURON, CALIF.

DEAR ABBY: When my husband was discharged from the hospital in Newnan, Ga., after surgery, I drove to the front door to pick him up. An aide had wheeled him outside to meet me.

A young man sitting in front of the building called my attention to the flat tire on my car. I had never changed a tire in my life, and my husband was in no condition to change it.

The young man said, "I'll change it for you." As I chatted with him, I learned that he had just visited his father, who was terminally ill. In spite of his own problems, he took time to help a stranger in distress. God bless him! -- CAROL LANDAICHE, PEACHTREE CITY, GA.

DEAR READERS: I plan to share more acts of kindness in the future. Watch this space.

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.)

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