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by Abigail Van Buren

Woman Unsure How to Take in Laws' Thank You of Cash

DEAR ABBY: My in-laws, who live seven hours away, spent last night in our guest room. They arrived late and had already eaten dinner on the road. My husband was away on business, and my in-laws and I had fun talking, laughing and sharing stories.

This morning I got dressed, spoke with them for a few minutes and left for work. They had the run of the house. I encouraged them to sleep late, help themselves to whatever was in the kitchen, and lock the door behind them when they left.

When I returned from work I noticed they had left a sweet note and a $50 bill! My husband says they did it to be nice and I should accept the money. My mother says I should take the money and buy new sheets for the guest room.

I feel terrible. I don't know why they left the money. My husband and I both work and earn good money. Our house isn't as nice as theirs, but we've been married for only two years. My first reaction was to return the money with a brief note explaining that we don't charge for hospitality. My husband says that would be cruel. Your thoughts, please. -- HURT IN WISCONSIN

DEAR HURT: I'm sure no insult was intended. The money was a gift, so accept it graciously in the spirit it was given. Your mother's suggestion to put it toward new sheets for the guest room is a good one. The next time your in-laws visit, show them that you used the money to make them more comfortable. I'm sure they'll be touched.

DEAR ABBY: I am operations manager of the maintenance and custodial department of a large university. It angers me to see how shabbily custodians, food workers and laborers are treated by individuals who think that, because they're college educated, they're above picking up after themselves. They're NOT. Please sign me ... PROUD OF OUR STAFF

DEAR PROUD: Thank you for the important reminder that there is dignity in all work. Respect for others is one of the greatest gifts that can be given year-round -- and it doesn't cost a dime. We are in the season of giving. Take the time to learn the names of people who are too often overlooked and thank them for their efforts.

DEAR ABBY: My daughter, "Victoria," is 20. She attends college and is engaged to a 27-year-old man I'll call Albert. They have been engaged for about a year and have lived together for two. They plan to be married in the fall of 2005.

Victoria and Albert think I should pay him for her rent and other expenses for the two years she has been living with him. It adds up to about $8,000. I think that since Victoria is living with him, Albert should be the provider. My daughter is an adult, and I know I am not obligated to support her. But I want to do the right thing. Frankly, I do not approve of their living arrangement.

Neither of them is speaking to me because I haven't given them the money. Should I pay for something I don't agree with? -- CONFUSED IN CALIFORNIA

DEAR CONFUSED: May I be frank? I have wracked my brain trying to come up with one single reason why you should -- and I can't come up with even one. And if your daughter's fiance were much of a man, he wouldn't ask you to. Please don't submit to blackmail. If you do, it will be only the beginning.

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