DEAR ABBY: "Friend of a Lonely Child" (Nov. 7) complained his wife didn't like him befriending the neighbor boy, "Donny," whose father is terminally ill.
Many years ago, I was that child. My home life was a mess, and the neighbors ended up raising me and teaching me about life. I am positive the only reason I didn't end up in prison was the concern of those people.
Mr. and Mrs. P. taught me manners and work ethic, Mr. and Mrs. M. schooled me in kindness and compassion, and the local store owner, Mr. R., taught me economics. He'd never let my credit go over $3, and he'd charge me a quarter a week if I didn't pay it off! Here I am at 51, having never made a credit card interest payment or taken a loan to term, thanks to him. I loved those neighbors more than I loved my own family.
"Friend," your wife is right. You can't save everyone, but a little kindness and mentoring can change a child's life. And all it will cost you is a little time. -- THANKFUL FOR OHIO NEIGHBORS
DEAR THANKFUL: Like you, many readers encouraged this man to continue in his role of father figure. My newspaper readers comment:
DEAR ABBY: I have two daughters who are now grown. Many of their friends spent a lot of time in our home and at our dinner table. Many of them were from troubled backgrounds. Sharing our home with others never deprived our daughters of love and attention. Instead, they learned the importance of giving.
After the friends grew up I was surprised and touched when they told me how much the time we shared had meant to them. I never realized I was making a difference.
Abby, "Friend's" wife is blessed to have such a caring husband. Yes, sometimes we are our brother's keeper. -- CHRIS IN ARIZONA
DEAR ABBY: As a single mom of a son, I was fortunate to have men around who took him under their wings. They provided friendship, male bonding and examples of how a true man treats a woman. I never fail to express my thanks to their wives and family members for allowing their husbands and fathers to spend time with my son. Because of it, he has become a better man and future husband. Maybe "Friend" and his wife can set predetermined times at which Donny can visit for male companionship. -- PROUD MOM IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR ABBY: As the mother of two daughters, I didn't have a great deal of interaction with 10-year-old boys until my nephew came to stay with us for an entire summer. His father was gravely ill and succumbed while the boy was living with us. As his mom dealt with the issues concerning his father's death, our nephew became a member of our household. It ended up being a tremendous experience.
"Friend's" wife needs to open her heart. She'll be given a wonderful gift and help a child in the process. -- PHYLIS IN NORTH CAROLINA
DEAR ABBY: Big Brothers/Big Sisters is an excellent organization, but it cannot replace the more frequent contact of a neighbor who recognizes and empathizes with the boy's fatherless situation. If "Friend's" heart leads him to mentor the neighbor boy, he should continue to build that friendship. Whether or not his wife feels the same shouldn't guide his actions. One makes many commitments to one's spouse, but closing one's eyes and heart to those in need isn't one of them. -- DENNIS IN KANSAS
DEAR ABBY: It's a pity the wife doesn't recognize that her daughters have a chance to see a man at his best -- caring for and protecting someone in need. The girls will seek these qualities in the men they bring into their lives, and it will add joy to the entire family. The best families always have plenty of love to go around for everyone. -- STEPHEN IN EUGENE, ORE.
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