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

by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR READERS: Today is Thanksgiving Day. It is an unusual Thanksgiving because some of the things we Americans have always assumed are no longer true. For the first time in the history of this country, the sense of personal security that the majority of us have taken for granted has been shaken.

And yet, if we look around we still have much for which to be thankful.

Let us offer thanks for the men and women in our armed forces who are separated from their families during this holiday season, who put their lives on the line to defend freedom and democracy and to preserve our American dream.

Let us offer thanks for our police and firefighters who put themselves at risk for us day and night in order to safeguard our lives and property.

Let us offer thanks for our medical personnel and health-care workers who go above and beyond the call of duty to preserve our health and well-being during these stressful times.

Let us offer thanks to our postal workers -- ever faithful, making sure the mail goes through in "rain, or hail, or sleet or snow" -- in spite of their concerns for their own health and safety. At a time when saboteurs have put dangerous toxins into the mails, these courageous men and women persevere every day to keep our citizens connected.

I am personally thankful to you, Dear Readers and fellow patriots, for sending me thousands of letters, poems, prayers and essays expressing your heartfelt thoughts about the events of Sept. 11. Thay are much appreciated.

Let us all be thankful that we live in a country where we worship as we choose, vote according to our consciences and publish our opinions without fear of reprisal.

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself." We are being tested, but we will prevail and emerge stronger in spite of the battles ahead -- on the home front as well as on foreign soil. Already we have forged international alliances that were never before possible.

And now, I'll repeat my Thanksgiving prayer. Perhaps you will want to use it at your table today:

Oh, heavenly Father,

We thank thee for food and remember the hungry.

We thank thee for health and remember the sick.

We thank thee for friends and remember the friendless.

We thank thee for freedom and remember the enslaved.

May these remembrances stir us to service,

That thy gifts to us may be used for others. Amen.

P.S. An afterthought: Remember, the surest cure for the holiday blues is to do something nice for someone else. Why not call someone who lives alone and invite him or her to share a meal? If your guest doesn't drive or doesn't like to go out alone after dark, offer to provide the transportation. Try it. And let me know the results. Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!

Dear Abby is written by Pauline Phillips and daughter Jeanne Phillips.

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-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds only) 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