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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Where I work, I see a lot of people from other states and countries, and I hear the following comment a lot: "For such a beautiful place, I'm surprised to see so much trash along the side of the roads."

Abby, I live in a nice little town in North Carolina and walk two miles in my neighborhood every day. After hearing that comment, I began carrying a trash bag with me to pick up the refuse people throw onto the side of the road. To my surprise, I find I'm picking up two large bags of trash a week -- and I live in a nice neighborhood. What kind of people do this?

My neighbor asked me why I pick up the trash as I walk. I told him that trash made our neighborhood ugly, and if someone didn't do it we'd be knee-high in trash. He was very surprised. Maybe people don't realize what they're doing when they toss their soda cans, candy wrappers, cigarettes and beer bottles out of their cars. I was taught as a child that this was the wrong thing to do. It looks like a lot of people weren't.

Please, parents and teachers: Teach your children that this is wrong, and maybe it will be the start of a cleaner America. I would also like to encourage other walkers to carry a bag and pick up trash as they walk. Also, bending is great for reducing the waistline. -- VICKY HURLEY, HICKORY, N.C.

DEAR VICKY: I'm pleased to promote your anti-litter crusade. Every state has littering laws. People should keep trash bags in their cars in which to dispose of trash, and teach their children that littering is wrong. Unfortunately, many individuals think they are the exception to the rule. There should be no exceptions!

DEAR ABBY: Recently I parked in the handicapped space at a restaurant and went in for lunch. Although I look healthy, I am a senior and have a much-needed handicapped placard on my car.

While I was enjoying my lunch, a customer who was leaving stopped at my table to tell me that the hostess and food servers were commenting that I didn't need the placard or special parking space.

As I paid my check, I asked the hostess, "Do you have arthritis?" "No," she replied. I asked if she had heart trouble. Again I received a negative reply. "Have you had two major abdominal surgeries," I continued, "and four operations?" She replied that she hadn't. Then I said, "Well, I have. And I do not appreciate you and the servers deciding by looking at me that I'm fraudulently parking in a handicapped space. Please don't judge that about which you have no knowledge."

Abby, there are times when I can barely walk or breathe, and when I'm in extreme pain. However, I have my pride, and I try my best not to appear anything other than healthy, but I do need some concessions because of my poor health.

In her last year, my 76-year-old mother dressed immaculately and wore makeup to look healthy, even though she was dying of cancer.

How dare people judge those they don't know, and decide they don't need the handicapped parking space? Some disabilities are not obvious, so people should give us the benefit of the doubt. Please print my letter so that the public will get the drift and be more compassionate. -- WALKING TALL IN THE MIDWEST

DEAR WALKING TALL: I have received many letters from people who are outraged at the obviously able-bodied people who park in parking spaces reserved for the handicapped.

Once again, I caution readers, "Don't judge a man until you've walked a mile in his moccasins."

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