DEAR ABBY: I was gratified to read the letter from "Grateful Woman in the Midwest" (Jan 13), who wondered how to honor the friends who had taken her in when she was in trouble, and given her support and shelter until she was able to move on.
Our family has also done this for young people in trouble, trying to help them turn their lives around. The greatest gift we ever received came from one young man I'll call Danny.
Danny was only 20. When he came to us, just before Christmas one year, he had a 4-year-old son, was estranged from his birth family and was in desperate need. We made their Christmas bright, helped Danny find a job, cared for his son until a slot opened at Head Start, and ultimately helped find them an apartment. We even covered the utility deposits.
Never once did Danny default on his payments. He is now a model young man, owns his own business and home, and is an excellent parent. I ran into him at the supermarket the other day, and he said, "I want you to know, my son and I adopted a family last Christmas." He went on to describe how they had selected and wrapped gifts, made a holiday food basket, even baked cookies for the family. The light in his eyes as he related the story spoke volumes. It was the most wonderful gift Danny could have given us.
Please tell "Grateful" that turning around and helping others will make her angels sing with joy. -- STILL SINGING, BATH, MAINE
DEAR STILL SINGING: Your uplifting letter made ME sing with joy, as I'm sure it will many of my readers. I'm pleased to report that there are many "guardian angels" on Earth because I heard from them. Read on for a sample:
DEAR ABBY: A thank-you note promising to "pay it forward" would be priceless. We have been helping people for years (anonymously when we can), but when pressed for a reason, we always talk about those individuals who helped us, and explain that this is our way of expressing our gratitude. Nothing in this world is more joy-filled for us, the original "givers" or the recipients. It's also a gift that can keep on giving for a lifetime. -- MICKI IN WEST PALM BEACH
DEAR ABBY: After my stepson died a number of years ago, one friend, "Tom," came and helped us tremendously. I thanked him at the time, but it wasn't until I was able to take on the same role for a different friend who had lost a loved one, and then wrote Tom about it, that his act of kindness was truly clear to him. He wept openly at having been able to make such a positive difference in our time of need. -- GRATEFUL IN BIDDEFORD, MAINE
DEAR ABBY: Twenty years ago, people helped me in ways I could never repay. One of them said, "When it's your turn, then you can help someone." Now that I'm in my 40s, I help college students with references, networking and food. And I always tell them that in 20 years, I want them to help someone when they are able to. More important than getting a "good feeling," I am continuing a cycle of grace and gratitude. I hope "Grateful" will consider this possibility. -- SEAN IN HUMBLE, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: A few years ago, I had the chance to help a friend in crisis. My husband and I invited the man to come and live with us. It was the best decision we ever made. He is a new man now, and watching him live his new life gives us great joy.
Trust me: It's enough for "Grateful" to go out and live her life well. That is all her friends would ever want from her. -- HAPPY TO HAVE HELPED IN SANTA CRUZ, CALIF.