DEAR ABBY: I read your column faithfully and hope you'll print my letter for public awareness. Two years ago I met the man who would "sweep me off my feet." When I asked him what he did for a living, he said, "I am a certified chimney sweep."
Although I always "knew" that people who have fireplaces or wood stoves need to have their chimneys cleaned, I never realized that chimney sweeps save lives every day!
Many homeowners and landlords are unaware that chimneys -- or ANY heating systems -- need to be inspected every year.
With new heating technology, furnace appliances are more efficient. They put less heat up the chimney and more into the home, causing condensation that can damage a chimney at a remarkable rate. This can create blockages, water and structural damage to the home, as well as carbon monoxide poisoning.
Homeowners can check for many of these things by looking in the bottom of their chimney. If there is any debris or flaking inside, if they can't see to the top with a flashlight, if there are water stains or missing bricks, the homeowner should contact a certified chimney sweep to inspect the venting system. These professionals have the training to properly install, replace and repair venting systems to meet national codes for safety, and they are qualified to give the best and safest solutions to homeowners and their families. -- SWEPT OFF MY FEET IN PA.
DEAR SWEPT: Thank you for wanting to educate others about a danger many of us face without being aware of it. Homeowners, if you observe any of these warning signs, please contact a certified sweep and have your venting system inspected before you light your next fire (renters should contact their landlords). A certified chimney sweep is usually as close as your telephone directory.
DEAR ABBY: You printed a letter from a group called "The Ya-Yas," who asked you to provide some words on friendship. I would like to submit a quote from Stephen E. Ambrose's book "Comrades" (Simon and Schuster, 1999). In his book, the author describes friendships between brothers, peers, father and son, combat buddies and others.
This quote is from the chapter on Lewis and Clark: "Friendship is different from all other relationships. Unlike acquaintanceship, it is based on love. Unlike lovers and married couples, it is free of jealousy. Unlike children and parents, it knows neither criticism nor resentment. Friendship has no status in law. Business partnerships are based on a contract. So is marriage. Parents are bound by the law, as are children. But friendship is freely entered into, freely given, freely exercised.
"Friends never cheat each other, or take advantage, or lie. Friends do not spy on one another, yet they have no secrets. Friends glory in each other's successes and are downcast by the failures. Friends minister to each other, nurse each other. Friends give to each other, worry about each other, stand always ready to help. Perfect friendship is rarely achieved, but at its height it is an ecstasy." -- WILLIAM FRITTS, TEMECULA, CALIF.
DEAR WILLIAM: That's a terrific quote, and I'm sure it will be appreciated by more people than the Ya-Yas. The most precious gift one person can offer another is a hand outstretched in friendship.
Good advice for everyone -- teens to seniors -- is in "The Anger in All of Us and How to Deal With It." To order, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Anger Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)
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