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Dear Abby: A few weeks ago, I stopped in a convenience store to pick up some snacks. Inside the store, a little girl - crying and apparently lost - grabbed my trousers and said, "Daddy!" I looked around the store and didn't see anyone who looked daddy-like, so I picked her up, put her on my shoulder and told her we would find her daddy. I took her to the checkout stand, where the assistant manager picked up his microphone and announced that he had found a little girl named "Adrianne" whose daddy was lost. Adrianne's mother showed up and took the little girl away.

When I got home and told my wife (a retired schoolteacher) about it, she told me I never should have touched the child; I could have been sued, jailed, or both.Who was wrong? The grandfather who rescued a crying child, or the "mother" who left her crying between the canned peaches and the bread shelf? I know that men have as much concern for children as women, and sometimes more. But I guess the law says we should just leave the little ones to cry, if we are not "mommies."

- Don Ransdell,

Squaw Valley, Calif.

Dear Don: Since all of your contact with the child took place in a well-lighted market in the presence of customers, clerks and management, your actions should not have been suspect.

However, it's a sad commentary that any male who tries to comfort a lost child while trying to locate her daddy risks potential legal liability. But given today's atrocities that make headlines, it seems to be a reality of the '90s. Pity!

Dear Abby: This is baffling. On dozens of occasions, I have given my sister a gift, carefully chosen and beautifully wrapped, but on receiving it, she says something like, "Oh . . . you really shouldn't have." Then a few days later, she gives it back to me and absolutely insists that I take it.

Is this passive-aggressive behavior? Or am I a lousy shopper?

What should I do with a collection of rejected gifts? They include clothes, jewelry, decorative objects, brandy, etc. And what should I do in the future?

- Sister Sue

Dear (Sweet) Sue: Your sister is obviously very insensitive. Stop giving her "things." Give her a check, a gift certificate, or make a contribution to her favorite charity. Or simply give her a card.

You may do whatever you wish with the collection of gifts, including giving them to someone you know will appreciate them.

Dear Abby: Several of my female co-workers and I like to unwind at lunch by engaging in "girl talk." Our problem is that a male co-worker joins us every day and ruins our fun. We'd like to get rid of him, but we are reluctant to tell him straight out for fear of hurting his feelings. He has no guy pals because they can't stand him either. Heavy hints - like hiding - haven't worked. We can't leave the premises for lunch, so we are easy to find in the small building in which we work. Any suggestions? Sign me . .

- Gutless

Dear Gutless: Yes. Be kind and don't exclude him. Engage in your "girl talk" without censoring the conversation. He might lend a male perspective that gives you "girls" valuable insight.

Should he repeat anything said in confidence, you can justifiably tell him he's no longer welcome because he gossips. And it's possible, after he gets an uncensored earful, he may no longer WANT to join you.

Confidential: To Jeanne: Happy Birthday, my dearest firstborn!

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