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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing from Littleton, Colo. Just the other day there was a shooting near my house in Columbine. Fortunately, I do not attend Columbine High because I attend school farther north. Still, many of my friends went there.

Almost immediately after the shooting, my school was on lockdown -- but as soon as I was let out, I went straight to my church. I was amazed at all of the people I found there. People who used to despise each other were hugging. People who never knew each other were talking. Although I was in a Catholic church, religion did not matter. There were rabbis, pastors and reverends. Buddhism and other religions were represented. Even atheists were there. It didn't matter who you were; we were all there as a community.

I spoke with people I never knew before and was deeply touched by their experiences. I ended up staying there for most of the night, and then returned and stayed there throughout the next day. I eventually learned that some of my friends were shot, which drew me even closer to the people I was with.

I just want to say a heartfelt thank-you to everyone who set aside their differences and helped us here in Littleton. -- VERY THANKFUL IN LITTLETON

DEAR THANKFUL: To you and to the other citizens of Littleton, I offer sympathy and prayers for recovery. The media brought your tragedy into millions of homes worldwide, and no one who witnessed the violence you experienced will remain untouched by it.

It's encouraging that your place of worship was where you sought refuge and comfort after leaving school, and that when you arrived you discovered the gathering to be ecumenical. Religion should bring people together, not divide them. As I have said in the past, a church is not a museum for saints -- it's a hospital for sinners. And I can think of no better place for wounded souls to begin healing.

DEAR ABBY: I am disturbed at your advice to "Wondering in Superior, Wis." concerning the baby shower for a second child. I have never heard that showers are only for the first child. Both of my children received showers -- and both of them were greatly needed, considering my children are of different sexes. Tomorrow I am attending a shower for a fourth daughter.

I have always considered a shower to be a celebration of a child's birth, each equally valued. Perhaps we should change the way we view this, and adopt a more generous, loving attitude. Every new mother can use the support of her friends, and a shower is simply a symbol of that.

I hope "Wondering" will reconsider and offer her friend her support. -- SHERREE IN OREGON

DEAR SHERREE: I didn't take into account the fact that the new baby might be a different sex from its older sibling. Although Emily Post and Amy Vanderbilt do not agree, your argument is convincing. You're right, the birth of a child is an event to celebrate. I, too, hope "Wondering" will reconsider and decide to support her friend.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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