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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: You asked for acts of kindness. Well, here is mine:

In June of last year, my husband and I went to Germany and Austria on vacation. While we were in Austria, my husband stumbled and fell, breaking his hip, which required hospitalization and surgery. I remained by his side in the recovery room until I was asked to leave at 1 a.m. I have never felt so alone.

The next morning, the bad luck continued. In my haste to get back to the hospital, I accidentally locked our hotel room key and the car keys in the trunk of our rented car. When I finally located a locksmith, he charged $103 to unlock the trunk because it was on a Saturday.

My husband spent the next two weeks in the hospital in Salzburg, recovering enough to withstand the 14-hour flight back to our home.

When my husband was finally discharged, the hospital demanded payment in cash, as did the ambulance company. The airline also insisted on cash to pay for the upgrade in seats necessary to make my husband comfortable on our flight home. We had prepaid for our vacation and didn't have a great deal of cash with us, so I had to go from bank to bank to get cash advances from our credit cards. It was difficult because on one day the computer would process the transaction, but the next day for some reason, it wouldn't -- "trouble on the phone lines," we were told. The language barrier made things doubly difficult.

It was in Frankfurt, Germany, however, where the real trouble occurred. My husband, who was in a wheelchair, had to wait for me around the corner down a long hallway while I tried in vain to pay for the upgrade with our credit cards. I argued, pleaded and begged to see an airline representative or someone from the American Embassy, but the ticket agent wouldn't budge. I feared we were stranded.

As luck would have it, a gentleman standing in the next line turned and asked me what the trouble was.

I told him how we couldn't get home after all the difficulty we'd been through. He opened his wallet, then handed me 50 $100 bills! My mouth hung open in total shock. He took my name and address, gave me his business card, and went on his way.

Out of possibly 6 billion people on this planet, what were my chances of a Good Samaritan with that much cash standing next to me offering that kind of help? I believe the stranger was an angel in disguise.

I want to thank him publicly. His name is Charan Kumar. Your readers might like to know that there are still some very kind and generous people in this world. -- JUDY PRINCE, FRESNO, CALIF.

DEAR JUDY PRINCE: Your letter is a dandy day-brightener. Thanks for a valuable addition to this column!

DEAR ABBY: I have been thinking about writing to you for a long time to share a memory about my mother, who lived to be 93 years old.

She spent the last seven years of her life with my husband and me. Every morning we had breakfast together and read the newspaper. Our favorite column was "Dear Abby."

One morning I glanced up and saw a small curl of smoke rising from the section of the newspaper she was reading. I thought, "Abby must have a hot article in her column today!"

The source of the smoke soon became apparent. Mother's eyesight was poor, and she was using a magnifying glass to read. The sun was shining through the window and the angle was just right for the rays to pass through the magnifying glass onto the paper. She was so engrossed in your column that at first she didn't notice the heat was burning a hole in the newspaper!

Needless to say, I corrected the problem immediately. -- MAY FREISINGER, MISSION VIEJO, CALIF.

DEAR MAY: I've taken a lot of heat for some of the letters I've printed, but nothing like what you've described. Thanks for sharing the memory.

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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