Join the debate. Vote Now on the Dear Abby Poll of the week.

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: My granddaughter, who is in elementary school, has been nominated to receive a prestigious award. Because of this, she has been featured in the newspaper and is a celebrity of sorts in her town. My daughter wants us to attend the awards ceremony. She mentioned more than six months ago that my granddaughter is up for this award and stands a great chance of winning it.

Unfortunately, a physician with whom I am friendly invited me to his son's wedding on that same date. I told the doctor that I may be attending an award ceremony for my granddaughter on the same day. Here is my dilemma: I credit this doctor with saving my life. I had cancer. He referred me to a specialist who discovered it. Since then, I have become social friends with this man. I do not know his son, but many people from my social circle will be attending this out-of-state wedding, and I want to go.

My daughter is very upset. She can't believe I would choose to attend a "stranger's" wedding over my grandchild's ceremony, which may very well be a once-in-a-lifetime event.

This doctor saved my life and I feel like I owe my life to him. My husband agrees with me, and so do my friends. But my conscience is bothering me, and my daughter is so hurt. She is a sensitive girl, loyal to her family and dependable. I don't want to damage our relationship. What do you advise? I have nine weeks to decide. -- TORN BETWEEN FAMILY AND FRIENDS

DEAR TORN: When the doctor made the referral, he was doing his job. He "saved your life" so you could attend important family events -- like your granddaughter's award ceremony. In this instance, your family should take precedence. Send the bride and groom a lovely gift, along with your regrets. If the doctor is indeed a friend, he will understand why you couldn't be there.

Since the award for which your granddaughter is eligible is "prestigious," being a candidate is an honor in itself. That you sacrificed to see her honored may be more meaningful to her and her parents than whether she actually wins. Listen to your conscience. It's trying to give you an important message.

DEAR READERS: Today we pay tribute to the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a great American and martyr of the civil rights movement, who was shot to death in 1968 at the age of 39.

Dr. King rose to prominence because of his persistence in the face of violent opposition, and his eloquent pleas for social justice. His principles for nonviolence were based on the teachings of Christianity.

In 1964, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. His words of wisdom are as true today as when they were uttered during his acceptance speech:

"Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.

"Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

God bless America. May we as Americans learn from his example.

What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS, and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." To order, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

4520 Main St., Kansas City, Mo. 64111; (816) 932-6600