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by Abigail Van Buren

Freeloading Neighbor May Be Seeking Cup of Kindness

DEAR ABBY: The letter from the woman whose neighbor comes over "no less than twice a day to borrow something" prompts my own. One sentence stood out that you might have missed: "Lately, I've been telling her I'm out of whatever she asks for, but she's always quick to ask for something else." Is it possible that the neighbor might be needing a friend? Sometimes reaching out and asking for something is an attempt at conversation and friendship. A shy person might think this is an effective way of communicating.

What if the writer were to walk over and ask to borrow something herself? I'd be interested to see if the neighbor invites her in. If so, maybe that's the type of hospitality she's looking for.

Abby, I think your advice was excellent for a pesky neighbor, but what if the person is someone who wasn't blessed with the social skills that you and I were -- and is only trying to make a friend? -- MARISA IN SAN LUIS OBISPO, CALIF.

DEAR MARISA: Your point is well taken. However, it is my observation that people who approach with something to give are usually welcomed more quickly than those who habitually approach with an outstretched palm. Read on:

DEAR ABBY: I was also faced with neighbors who had more money and stamina than I. Believe me, they borrowed everything they could.

As the wife of a hard-working husband and the mother of eight children, I had to put a stop to it. When a woman asked to borrow my curlers, I asked her to leave something with me until I got them back, because "You know I will return them" never happens. I posted a note on my refrigerator that read: "If you want a cup of sugar, give me two potatoes. A can of tomatoes equals four eggs ..." etc.

This was such a popular idea that all the neighbors started swapping instead of borrowing. -- VINA ROY, MERRIMACK, N.H.

DEAR VINA: You're a clever lady. Swapping is better than constantly borrowing any day of the week.

DEAR ABBY: Did it occur to you that the "freeloader" could be one of the millions of one-check-away-from-the-street poor?

I grew up incredibly poor, and if it hadn't been for the kindness of our neighbors, I wouldn't have made it. One neighbor became a father figure to my siblings and me -- in addition to giving us milk.

I urge people not to turn their backs on their neighbors. The poor, the sick and the lonely need our support. What kind of a world would it be if we ignored those next door to us? Community is not just for the well-off.

Perhaps the writer of that letter should find out why her neighbor has no phone or anything else. Maybe she could help her. -- THANKFUL FOR THE KINDNESS OF NEIGHBORS, PORTLAND, ORE.

DEAR THANKFUL: I agree that the poor, the sick and the lonely need support and shouldn't be ignored. But if the family is chronically needy, it seems to me that rather than doling out Ziploc bags and diet soda, it would be far more helpful to put the person in touch with social services or a church group that could help them fix the problem instead of putting a Band-Aid over the symptoms.

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 $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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