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by Abigail Van Buren

DEAR ABBY: I have been an avid reader for many years, and appreciate the stories you print about acts of kindness.

My 4-year-old nephew, Jacob, is a dwarf. He is a sweet, kind child and has a great personality. He is also very well-adjusted. This past year was especially difficult for Jacob because he needed a shunt installed in his head last spring. In October, he ended up in the University of Chicago Children's Hospital for a month with numerous complications that required tests, procedures and emergency surgeries.

My nephew was fortunate to have his family, friends, neighbors and teachers spend time with him in the hospital. But what made this little boy the happiest was what the city's refuse collectors did after they missed seeing him on their weekly neighborhood rounds. When they were told about Jacob's hospitalization, they surprised him by showing up at the hospital with Matchbox garbage truck toys. Thank you, Homewood Disposal Systems in Homewood, Ill., for employing kind, compassionate workers who value their customers.

All is well in my nephew's world. Thank you for letting me share our joy, Abby. -- HAPPY IN HOMEWOOD

DEAR HAPPY: What an uplifting letter to receive as we begin 2003! It appears Homewood is a community that embraces even its youngest citizens, and demonstrates the good neighbor policy in daily living. It's a lesson we can all take to heart.

And now, because no New Year's Day would be complete without Dear Abby's oft-requested New Year's resolutions, I offer these, based on the original credo of Al-Anon -- with a few variations of my own:

JUST FOR TODAY, I will live through this day only. I will not brood about yesterday or obsess about tomorrow. I will not set far-reaching goals or try to overcome all my problems at once. I know that I can do something for 24 hours that would overwhelm me if I had to keep it up for a lifetime.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will be happy. I will not dwell on thoughts that depress me. If my mind fills with clouds, I will chase them away and fill it with sunshine.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will accept what is. I will face reality. I will correct those things I can correct, and accept those I cannot.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will improve my mind. I will read something that requires effort, thought and concentration. I will not be a mental loafer.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will make a conscious effort to be agreeable. I will be kind and courteous to those who cross my path, and I will not speak ill of others. I'll improve my appearance, speak softly, and not interrupt when someone else is talking. Just for today, I'll refrain from improving anybody except myself.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will do something positive to improve my health. If I'm a smoker, I'll quit. If I'm overweight, I'll eat healthily -- if only for today. And just for today, I'll get off the couch and take a brisk walk, even if it's only around the block.

JUST FOR TODAY, I will gather the courage to do what is right and take responsibility for my own actions.

To one and all, a happy, healthy New Year!

Love, ABBY

To receive a collection of Abby's most memorable -- and most frequently requested -- poems and essays, send a business-sized, self-addressed envelope, plus check or money order for $5 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby -- Keepers Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Postage is included in the price.)

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