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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: This letter is intended for mothers and fathers who make beautiful children but don't spend quality time with them. You will never know what your child could become if you don't play an active role in his or her life.

When my wife and I married eight years ago, I said that when we had children, I would spend more time with them than my father spent with me. Judging from the events over the last seven years, I know I could have achieved much more had my father spent a little more time with me.

My son, who is now 7 years old, is academically excellent in school, talented in karate and basketball, gifted in art and has a CD on the market. At 7, he's already building for his future. All of this, and he still has time to play Pokemon and Digimon with his brother and sister, both of whom have received similar accolades.

Kids have so much potential. Parents, please spend time with you children. -- SOMEWHERE IN VIRGINIA

DEAR SOMEWHERE: Your plea touched my heart, and I'm printing it for parents who may need such a wake-up call. One of the unexpected benefits of women's liberation has been that recent generations of fathers have taken a greater role in child rearing. I, for one, think that's terrific.

DEAR ABBY: I have enjoyed reading about the random acts of kindness you have printed. I have a tremendous one to share with you that meant the world to me.

Four years ago, my husband, Roy, had a massive stroke. We had been married only 12 years when this happened. He is right-side paralyzed, has some speech impairment and is in a wheelchair. He does not like going out in public and usually refuses to do so. We were always "card givers," and I missed his cards so much after he got sick.

Our wedding anniversary is Valentine's Day. As Valentine's Day approached, I was quite depressed because I knew I would not receive my usual cards from my precious husband. One of our neighbors, Susan, knew how I felt. She went to a card shop and spent hours selecting Valentine and anniversary cards. She found the perfect cards and brought them to our house. Then she asked me to go out for a little while, saying she needed to talk to Roy. After I left, she read the cards to him, helped him sign them, and told him to wait until the next morning to give them to me.

The next morning when I got Roy up and fixed our breakfast, I gave him the cards I had for him. You cannot imagine the smile on his face when he presented me with the cards that Susan had brought for him to give to me. They were absolutely beautiful, exactly the kind of cards Roy had given me over the years. It was as if he had gone and picked them out himself.

Susan has done this every year since Roy had his stroke. I always express my gratitude to her, but there are no words to tell her exactly how much this means to me. Thank you, Susan, and God bless you. -- BRENDA GAY, EASLEY, S.C.

DEAR BRENDA: Everyone should be so fortunate as to have a neighbor as caring and sensitive as Susan. I'm sure your letter will be a day-brightener for everyone who reads it, and plant the seed of an idea for readers who may know someone in a similar situation. Thank you for writing.

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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