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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Eight years ago, I was a reasonably good-looking 27-year-old woman. Then I survived a very serious automobile accident. Despite numerous surgeries, my face was badly scarred.

Before the accident, I was fairly popular and had plenty of dates. But after the accident, I was not prepared for the reaction I would get from people. Although I bend over backward to be friendly, nobody (including co-workers) spends any more time with me than is necessary. I'm never asked to join them for lunch. It's as though they are embarrassed to be seen with me.

I live in Los Angeles and because of my job, I meet many celebrities. Most seem a bit shocked when they first see me, but they are at least courteous.

However, there are three people who not only never flinched when they met me; they went out of their way to be friendly and make me feel comfortable.

They are former president Jimmy Carter, and two actors, Paul Newman and John Travolta. These three men are heroes in my book, and I shall never forget their kindness. -- FOREVER GRATEFUL IN LOS ANGELES

DEAR FOREVER GRATEFUL: Thank you for sharing your poignant story with me so I could share it with my readers.

God bless Carter, Newman and Travolta. In spite of their celebrity status, they have remained sensitive and compassionate. We would all do well to follow their admirable example.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Depressed in Dixie," the mother concerned about her 25-year-old son marrying a divorced woman with a 2 1/2-year-old child.

When my never-before-married husband took my 4-year-old daughter (Jessica) and me to meet his family for the first time, they accepted us with all the grace and love possible. They had gifts every time we visited. If they had reservations about our marriage, they kept it to themselves. After our own two children came along, they continued to treat Jessica as if she were their very own.

Sixteen years later, she is a bright, happy, beautiful college junior with three grandmothers (all widows), and I dare say she loves her "step" granny as much as her "real" ones. Some of Jessica's happiest memories from her childhood are summer weekends at her granny's farm, taking walks, going out to the barn, or playing waitress taking lunch orders from a grandmother with never-ending patience.

"Depressed in Dixie," you will be the loser if you allow your fears to keep you from knowing and loving a beautiful "step" grandchild. Any problems will be for your son and his wife to deal with. All you have to do is provide love. -- BLESSED IN DIXIE, A.K.A. SYDNEY FULBRIGHT, FORT SMITH, ARK.

DEAR BLESSED IN DIXIE: The mail inspired by the letter from "Depressed in Dixie" was heartwarming. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing in response to "Depressed in Dixie," whose son decided to marry a divorced woman with a 2 1/2-year-old child.

When I was 4 1/2 years old, my father died, leaving a wife and three children. My mother eventually remarried, and I called Mom's new husband "Dad" from that day forward. He didn't have to be dragged into this role. His love for my mother and all of us kids is why he married her! The interesting thing is that Dad had been married before and had six children of his own, but he still treated us special, as though we were his flesh and blood.

I just want to tell "Depressed" that I don't know where I would be if Dad hadn't married my mom because she had been married and had children. It would have been selfish of either of them to deny their love for each other just because of a child.

Oh, and one more thing, "Depressed," I thank God every day for bringing my Dad into my life. -- HAPPY AND LOVED NINTH CHILD IN AURORA

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

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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