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DEAR ABBY: I know you reach millions of readers, so please print this letter. It could save someone's life.

If a friend or a relative has been shuttled into a nursing home, I beg you to please visit him or her at least 20 minutes a month. Just drop by to say, "Hello." Let the person know you care.

Many older folks -- "our finest generation" -- have been cast aside like old shoes to live out a dead-end existence in nursing homes. They are lonely -- suffering physically, mentally and emotionally -- because they have been discarded and forgotten.

Some nursing homes do not have enough trained staff or the facilities to properly care for their patients. Because many "dear ones" have no one to visit and monitor their care, the homes have become negligent, and they're getting away with it.

You can make a difference. You must make a difference! -- SOS (SAVE OUR SENIORS)

DEAR SOS: Sadly, I suspect much of what you say is true. However, it would be unfair to label all skilled nursing facilities as "negligent." Although some are understaffed, many of them employ caring staff and provide social programs for their residents.

That said, nothing takes the place of a visit from an old friend or loving relative.

DEAR ABBY: I am attending two upcoming weddings where money has been requested as a gift. One couple are close family members on my husband's side. We have not known the other couple that long, but they are members of our church. I am unsure about how much money is appropriate to give each couple. I feel as though we should give more to my husband's brother than to a couple to whom we are not related. How much is enough? -- STUCK IN SAN JOSE, CALIF.

DEAR STUCK: Your question is one that I am frequently asked, and the answer is there is no "fixed" amount. It depends upon your level of disposable income. However, I agree with you that it is appropriate to give your in-law a more generous gift than you would to casual friends you have only recently met.

DEAR ABBY: So much has been said about road rage that I would like to share a heartwarming experience I recently had on the Santa Monica Freeway in Los Angeles.

I was in the middle lane, the traffic was heavy -- and my car died. My heart pounded. I feared the worst. But no one yelled at me. No one made an obscene gesture. No one shot at me. Instead, folks patiently pulled around my car and signaled others to do likewise (even my flashers were out!).

Soon, a young Hispanic couple got out of their car and pushed me to the side of the road. They refused to accept any money. I no sooner thanked them than a pleasant motorcycle officer arrived and summoned a tow truck.

Within the hour, my car was in the mechanic's shop and I was home enjoying a cool lemonade.

From start to finish, everyone was kind to me -- even the mechanic charged me less than the going rate. I feel blessed to have been surrounded by so many generous, caring people. -- HAPPY MOTORIST IN SOUTH PASADENA, CALIF.

DEAR HAPPY MOTORIST: The majority of people in this world are kind and caring. I'm pleased that you found a high percentage of them in one place.

To order "How to Write Letters for All Occasions," send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Letter Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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