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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I'm writing on behalf of the residents in my development. We're middle-class citizens who take care of our homes. Our lawns are neat and trimmed and our flower beds are weeded. Our "stuff" is kept in garages, sheds or in our homes.

Last summer a new family moved into our neighborhood. They bought the first house you see when you enter our main street. Abby, the place is a mess! "Stuff" is all over the place (piles of junk left out over the winter). To their credit, a shed was started, but it was blown down after a few days and now the lumber just lies there.

Since their property backs up to the main road, they don't bother driving around the block to park –- they drive through the yard! The tire ruts are now evident, and it detracts from our well-kept lawns. We can only imagine what has happened to property values. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated. –- DUMPED ON IN DELAWARE

DEAR DUMPED ON: I agree that if their property has become an eyesore, it could affect the value of other homes in the neighborhood. Inquire at City Hall whether or not there are codes or ordinances in place that restrict homeowners from leaving junk on their lawns. Then ask the offenders if they might like some help in cleaning up their yard, and offer to lend a hand. Perhaps some of the other neighbors would also like to help.

If that doesn't work, you and the rest of the property owners should consider starting a neighborhood association that will have some clout. And, of course, consult a lawyer who specializes in real estate law.

DEAR ABBY: This is in response to "Jewish in Cincinnati," who offered a litany of ways in which Christians broadcast their religious beliefs.

He or she should move to metropolitan New York where entire malls are closed every Sunday because of "blue laws," and stores are closed on Saturdays because of strict Jewish beliefs. I give all of the aforementioned credit for honoring God. However, when "Jewish in Cincinnati" complains about Christmas music blaring from October to January, let's not confuse Christianity with consumerism. Half those offending stores and malls may not even be owned by Christians.

I grew up in an inner-city neighborhood in a small stretch of houses situated between a synagogue and a Jewish school. Every one of our neighbors had a strong sense of tolerance and caring. My grandma traded her Italian pastries with our Jewish neighbor for her delicious cheesecake. We manned the candy store, without thought of repayment, on high holy days for our Jewish neighbor. On Friday nights, my dad always turned off the lights at the synagogue.

It seems to me that we were more understanding and tolerant in years past. What are we really learning from Kosovo, or even Littleton, Colo.? So a comedian or celebrity needs to tell people he's Jewish. So what? It's his shtick! In the meantime, if you're traveling through Hashbrouck Heights, N.J., at Christmastime, you'll see my Roman Catholic church decorated with a nativity scene and a menorah. I think that's what makes America great! – ROMAN CATHOLIC IN NEW JERSEY

DEAR ROMAN CATHOLIC: I agree, and it harkens back to a gentler time when America pictured itself more a melting pot and less a patchwork quilt. The world would be a more hospitable place if attitudes were more inclusive and less exclusive. I'm reminded of the song lyric, "What the world needs now is love." (End of sermon.)

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