DEAR ABBY: I am a 40-year-old man with a baby face. It makes me appear much younger than I am -- so much so that I have been carded when buying alcohol or lottery tickets. People also seem to relate to me based on the age they perceive me to be.
Four months ago I grew a beard, which makes me look more my age. I'm an actor, and in the past audiences had difficulty accepting me in certain roles because of my youthful appearance. My beard solved that problem.
My sister-in-law is getting married this summer and insists I shave my beard for the ceremony and wedding photos. I keep it well-groomed, and it gives me more confidence when dealing with people. I don't want to shave it.
My sister-in-law is recovering from cancer, and my wife thinks I'll look like a jerk if I refuse to comply. I'm not part of the wedding party, but I am the head usher and will be in many of the family photos. Is her request appropriate? My father-in-law has a beard, but he hasn't been asked to shave it. -- CONFLICTED IN CANADA
DEAR CONFLICTED: Your letter reminds me of the ones I have printed about brides who don't want anyone associated with their wedding to be overweight, tattooed or have an unusual hairdo. They're so preoccupied with how things will look that they forget there are people, not mannequins or puppets, involved.
You should not have to shave your beard in order to be an usher. Offer your sister-in-law a choice: Either you can remain as you are, or she can find someone else to steer her guests to their seats. Do not be confrontational about it. The choice will be hers.
DEAR ABBY: You often advise readers who have the time to reach out and volunteer. There's a little-known program in every state that was mandated by a 1978 amendment to the "Older Americans Act." It's the Long Term Care Ombudsman Program. Its goal is to help assure that long-term care facility residents live harmoniously and with dignity, feeling free to voice complaints or concerns without reprisal.
There's a need nationwide for volunteers to make this program work. The ultimate goal is to have one volunteer in each nursing home. After training is completed, volunteers spend eight to 16 hours a month visiting their assigned nursing homes. They talk with the residents and observe conditions. If there's a complaint, they take it to their regional ombudsman for resolution.
Once residents get to know and trust you, they will share wonderful life stories. Some of them have no one to talk to, no visitors or family. A volunteer ombudsman is the voice for those who have none, and helps to make each community a better place to live for all its residents.
The nursing homes like to have volunteer ombudsmen visit their facilities because they want to provide the best care possible for their residents. -- JILL IN VAN BUREN, ARK.
DEAR JILL: Forgive me if this seems cynical, but some do and some don't -- which is exactly why it's so important that there are trained observers willing to regularly visit nursing home patients to ensure they are properly cared for. Readers, this is important work. If you are interested in volunteering, contact your local social services agency, Department of Aging or search online for the word "ombudsman" and the state in which you reside.
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