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Dear Abby: Army wife pays it forward after being helped by others

Dear Abby: In the past you have printed letters from readers describing acts of kindness for others. Not long ago, my husband (who is in the military) and I went out to dinner after our first obstetric appointment. We had a lovely time; our server was also a pregnant Army wife and we chatted about due dates, deployments, our husbands' jobs, etc.

At the end of the meal no check was delivered to our table. Our server explained that the couple behind us had paid for it as a way to say thank you for my husband's service and congratulations on the baby. We were very touched. I wish they hadn't left before we did so we could have thanked them.

My husband and I stopped at the market before going home. A man approached us and asked if we had any spare change because his kids were hungry and payday was a few days off. Because someone had done something nice for us that night, I decided to pay it forward and help him out — so I gave him all the money I had in my purse.

Someone touched our lives in a positive way, and I'm so glad we could help someone in return. I hope this letter inspires someone else to do the same.

— Army Wife at Fort Bliss, Texas

Dear Army Wife: So do I. And to that I'd like to add that helping others does not necessarily have to involve giving money. It can be as simple as approaching members of the military and thanking them for their service or volunteering time to work in a shelter or a food program to help the destitute.

Dear Abby: My mother-in-law has a terrible habit. She tells us what she wants for gifts in the form of e-mails with Web links to things she wants.

One year, she bought a pair of $700 earrings and told her fiance that he bought them for her birthday. He actually had to reimburse her.

Last Mother's Day she sent an e-mail with a link to a site selling personalized crystal items to be engraved with a thoughtful message to "Mom." This week she sent an e-mail — two months in advance — saying what she wants for her birthday.

I wasn't raised like this. I have a problem with someone telling me what she wants when I haven't asked. I also don't like being told how much to spend. I think her behavior is selfish and immature, but how do I get it to stop?

My husband is used to it. He doesn't know how to say no to her. His sisters have picked up this habit and tell us what their kids want for birthdays and Christmas. One sister even handed me an ad she had clipped for something she wants on her next birthday. What can I do?

— Solicited in Arizona

Dear Solicited: How about ignoring the solicitations and giving something you can afford? Or just say no. And if your mother-in-law or sisters-in-law ask why you didn't "produce on command," say — with a smile — that asking for gifts is rude, that it makes you uncomfortable, and what was requested was beyond your means.

Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.

© Universal Press Syndicate