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by Abigail Van Buren

Dads Who Talk With Kids Leave Rich Legacy Behind

DEAR ABBY: I have been reading your column for more than 40 years. My father's time was always tight because he had many responsibilities, but there was always lots of quality time. Instead of storybooks, he would read your column in the newspaper with me and my siblings. We loved answering the questions and then seeing if we agreed or disagreed with your answers.

Dad is gone now, and I miss him and need him. You could help to fill that void if you would reprint on Father's Day the beautiful poem, "I Had a Father Who Talked With Me," by Hilda Bigelow. It is a source of inspiration and guidance for active fathers. -- CHRIS KURTEK-MELCHIORRE, LOS ANGELES

DEAR CHRIS: That's a wonderful suggestion. The last time the poem appeared in my column was in 1993. Its author, who lives in Cocoa, Fla., described herself as "just a retired schoolteacher." I'm sure you'll agree that she's not only modest, but also an able writer. Read on:

I HAD A FATHER WHO TALKED TO ME

I had a father who talked with me --

Allowed me the right to disagree,

To question -- and always answered me,

As well he could -- and truthfully.

He talked of adventures; horrors of war;

Of life, its meaning; what love was for;

How each would always need to strive

To improve the world to keep it alive.

Stressed the duty we owe one another

To be aware each man is a brother.

Words for laughter he also spoke,

A silly song or a happy joke.

Time runs along, some say I'm wise,

That I look at life with seeing eyes.

My heart is happy, my mind is free,

I had a father who talked with me.

DEAR ABBY: When I read the letter from Victoria Rowell and Alonzo Mourning about foster children, I couldn't help but wipe away the tears. I never dreamed that so many children are in need of a caring adult's love and guidance.

You mentioned mentoring in your reply. I am very interested in mentoring a child. While I am unable to provide full-time care to a foster child, I know I could mentor one -- or even two. Where can I find information about doing this? How can I connect with a child who needs what I have to offer? -- WANTS TO HELP IN NEW MEXICO

DEAR WANTS TO HELP: Bless you for your caring heart. I know there must be many people who cannot be full-time foster parents, but who could manage a couple of days a month to bond with a child and provide the kind of encouragement that will enable the child to strive for success.

Mentoring doesn't have to be a big production; take a child to the zoo, a sporting event, an art gallery, into your home and into your heart. These are children who, through no fault of their own, often float from place to place. They have no adult figure to give them a continuity of caring. They need an adult they can trust and confide in, to steer them in the right direction, and rekindle the belief that success is possible and that goals are worth aspiring to.

Readers, those of you who would like to mentor a foster child should call 1-888-432-MENTor (1-888-432-6368), which is sponsored by "Children Uniting Nations," to locate a program in your local area. (Note: For the safety of the children, all applicants are rigorously screened.) If you qualify, I guarantee you'll receive more than you give when you see that child blossom.

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

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-size, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $3.95 ($4.50 in Canada) to: Dear Abby's "Keepers," P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included.)

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