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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My wife and I have just returned from a week-long vacation at an ocean resort. Another couple, "Al and Gloria," went with us. We booked separate rooms, and for the most part enjoyed each other's company. However, I observed one thing that disturbed me.

As I sat on the balcony one night waiting for my wife to dress for dinner, I saw Gloria walking on the beach. I watched as she picked up a child's boogie board that was lying at the edge of the surf.

When we were loading the trunk of the rental car to go home, she attempted to conceal the boogie board with their luggage.

My wife and I were astonished at Gloria's behavior. We didn't know whether or not we should confront her. On the trip home, I made some jokes about surfing, but I don't think she got the hint.

Abby, should we keep quiet and preserve our friendship, or ask her why she stole a child's toy? -- PERPLEXED IN NEW CASTLE, DEL.

DEAR PERPLEXED: Much depends upon how close your friendship is with "Al and Gloria." If you feel the friendship is worth preserving, ask Gloria why she concealed the boogie board instead of turning it in to lost-and-found at the hotel. It's possible she thought the board had been abandoned.

If you're not close and do not wish to risk a confrontation, perhaps the time has come to distance yourselves.

DEAR ABBY: I am writing in response to "Sherri in Cincinnati," who wrote that as a lonely teen-ager she was welcomed into her best friend's family. I agree with your answer, Abby -- sometimes it does "take a village" to raise a child.

I left my husband when my son, "Kenny," was 2. I had to work, and Kenny was raised by a "village." My mother, grandmother, father, brother, sister and friends all took the time to play an important part in his life. When I married my current husband, my in-laws never missed a beat -- they immediately became a part of my son's "village," too.

I am proud to say Kenny, now 13, is an incredible person -- an honor student, athletic, musically talented and popular among his peers. I frequently receive compliments from teachers and other parents about how polite, kind, respectful and well-mannered he is. When I hear those words, I tell them I wish I could take all the credit, but my son is a "village" child.� Some of Kenny's teen-age friends have troubled lives, and we open our door to them. They spend nights here; we do laundry, cook meals, I help with their homework and display their photos. Some have even accompanied us on family vacations. They feel free to discuss any topic that comes to mind. When our relatives visit, we do not exclude Kenny's friends -- we simply expand our "village."

Abby, I would like to thank all of these wonderful souls who took an interest in my son. I never could have done it without them. -- LISA IN ILLINOIS

DEAR LISA: There is nothing as important in the life of a young person as the involvement of caring adults. Your son seems to have incorporated the talents and finest qualities of everyone with whom he has had contact. Strong role models and unconditional love can heal even the most emotionally impoverished person -- and that goes for adults, too.

For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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