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by Abigail Van Buren

Teen Caught Shoplifting Warns Others of High Cost

DEAR ABBY: I'm 18 years old and have learned something the hard way. Please print my letter so other teens may be spared what I went through.

A few months ago, I got caught shoplifting. I was escorted out of the department store by security and the police and my parents were notified. It was the most humiliating day of my life.

My crime cost me the trust of everyone important to me. My parents put me on restriction and wouldn't allow me to get my driver's license. The court slapped me with a $250 fine and ordered me to attend counseling sessions that cost my parents $70 an hour. Tomorrow I will finally reach the end of the court-ordered counseling program.

Abby, I have worked hard to rebuild my reputation. I have earned several awards from my school and landed a summer internship at a high-profile law firm. My family and I can now put this incident behind us -- but none of us will ever forget it.

I understand that teen shoplifting is a major problem for businesses. Kids use poor judgment and demonstrate sheer stupidity when they commit these crimes. It all comes down to greed and selfishness. Although it starts with taking a few shirts, it escalates to more expensive items. My message to fellow teens is: Don't do it! Sooner or later, you'll get caught, and nothing you can do will make up for what you have done.

Abby, I will never steal again. I'm sorry for what I did. I know many teens will not listen to my warning, but if a few do, then I'll be glad I wrote. -- SORRY TEEN-AGE THIEF

DEAR SORRY: Congratulations on your rehabilitation. Your desire to make other young people think twice before shoplifting is laudable. However, shoplifting is a crime not restricted to thrill-seeking teen-agers. It affects everyone because retailers pass those losses on to consumers, who pay for them in higher prices. I hope everyone who is tempted to shoplift will heed your warning.

DEAR ABBY: I, too, have read the letter from "Longtime Reader, New York State," who was offended by her husband wearing the wedding ring from his former marriage. My story is a bit different.

My first husband and I were married 56 wonderful years. Two years after he died, a man who belonged to the same senior club as I asked me for a date. Five weeks later we were married. I had always thought that a person could only love once. I was wrong. We spent five happy years together, until his death at age 90.

A month later, a friend of mine died at the nursing home where she had been a patient for two years following a serious stroke. Two weeks later, her widowed husband called to visit. Three weeks later we were married. He asked me if I would wear his wife's rings, or if I wanted new ones. I knew that most of his resources had been swallowed up during his wife's illness, so I told him that if her rings fit, I'd be proud to wear them. They did fit. I had known this couple for about six years and I knew he was a good man. It was breathtakingly fast, and now we are both very happy.

On our dining room wall hang four photographs. One is of John and his wife, another of me and my first husband, another of me and my second husband -- and in the center, a picture of John and me. Neither of us is jealous of our partner's past life. We're too busy being in love with each other. -- MARY BURKHARDT, THOUSAND OAKS, CALIF.

DEAR MARY: Life is for the living, and I commend you and John for living it to the fullest, and for affirming that love is not necessarily limited to once in a lifetime. My warmest congratulations to you both.

For Abby's favorite family recipes, send a long, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Cookbooklet No. 1, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, Ill. 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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