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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: Last year, my sister called with a wonderful suggestion that we all pool our Christmas money given us by our parents and get them a wonderful gift. I was overjoyed.

When I replied, "I'll send the $40 ASAP," she was shocked. I was deeply hurt to find out the distribution of gifts to me and my siblings was as follows: $40, $40, $150, $150 and $200!

My parents are in their mid-70s and still quite vibrant. All of their children are married with small families and mid- to upper-class incomes. I'm 43, their third-oldest, and have been married 11 years. The $40 was unusual, as past gifts have usually been in the $25-$35 range. I had always assumed that my parents, over the years, had been sending all of us the same gift.

Needless to say, since that call from my sister a year ago, I no longer feel the same about my parents. Their favoritism has hurt me deeply. As this Christmas season approaches, please let your readers know that siblings do share information with each other. -- SLAPPED IN THE FACE IN OREGON

DEAR SLAPPED: I'm passing your message along. However, before you cut your parents off at the heartstrings, you should tell them exactly what you have told me. There may have been extenuating circumstances, and they deserve a chance to explain why they chose to be more generous with some of their children than others.

DEAR ABBY: I agreed 100 percent with your advice to "Deserted in New Orleans," the man whose wife deserted him and their 5-year-old son. You advised him that if he could let her go without bitterness, he would be the winner in the long run, and to please consider counseling for himself and his son to help them through the heartbreak of being deserted.

We cannot choose or control what others do to us, only how we react to it. At the risk of sounding cynical, "deadbeats" come in all forms -- dads, moms, children who ignore aging parents, spouses who cheat, partners who embezzle, and so on.

Let's hope "Deserted" will hang onto the positive and slough off the negative. By the way, just because he "lets her go without bitterness," he should NOT release her from her financial debts or child-support obligations. When you adopt a child, you agree in a court of law to be responsible for that child as though you birthed him yourself. A college-educated woman with a "good job in Florida" can still do much for her child financially. Good luck and God bless him and his son.

Abby, thanks for all you do. People need to hear supportive words. The ability to encourage others is a God-given gift as important as any other. Please don't reveal my name or location. This is a universal message. -- KINDRED SPIRIT

DEAR K.S.: Thank you for the kind words. When I advised "Deserted" to let his wife go without bitterness, I did not mean to imply that he should do it without legal representation. In a situation such as the one the writer experienced, a lawyer is not only a great comfort, he or she is also an absolute necessity.

CONFIDENTIAL TO "TUNED OUT IN TULSA": To paraphrase Elie Wiesel, a Holocaust survivor and author who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1986: More dangerous than anger and hatred is indifference. To be indifferent to suffering is what makes the human being inhuman. Indifference is not a beginning, it is an end -- and it is always the friend to the enemy.

If I were you, I'd tune back in.

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