DEAR ABBY: It is easy to watch or read the news and think people are awful and this world is going nowhere fast. At New Year's I made a resolution to try and do something about how I view society. I decided I'd do 30 random acts of service for strangers.
I know it may seem small and insignificant, but at least I can say I'm trying to make this a better place to live. I'm hoping it will spread a message of love and caring in a world with too much hurt and violence. Ideally, one or two people will notice and pay it forward.
It's spring, and so far I have volunteered as a math tutor at a local school and shoveled the snow off a neighbor's sidewalk. But I'm already falling behind, and I'm struggling to come up with some good ideas. I know you and your readers often have creative suggestions. Can you suggest more acts of service I can do for strangers? -- TRYING TO BE NICE
DEAR TRYING TO BE NICE: You could volunteer at a local food pantry. Or find an organization that delivers food to shut-ins and take meals to the clients they serve a couple of days a month.
You could bring a garbage bag with you when you take walks in the morning or evening and pick up paper cups, plastic bags, cigarette butts and candy wrappers that litter our streets and beaches. Or simply acknowledge the presence of others by smiling and saying, "good morning," "good afternoon" and "good evening" to people you encounter.
Readers, if you'd like to chime in, I'd be interested in your ideas.
DEAR ABBY: Two years ago, when I was a senior in high school, a guy became overly attached to me. He shared many very private feelings with me about his lack of friends and severe depression. After trying to help him, first by myself and later with a school guidance counselor and even involving his parents, I decided his problems were too much for me to handle and ended the friendship. I know I hurt him, but I saw no other alternative. After high school we didn't speak for about a year.
We are now in the same college and he's trying to force himself back into my life and be friends again. Abby, he hasn't changed at all. I feel bad, but I have no interest in becoming his friend.
What should I do? I have a hard time saying no because he is so persistent and I feel guilty. -- FEELING PITY IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR FEELING PITY: Tell him the truth. Say, "I can't be your friend because your problems overwhelm me. But you can do something about them by going to the student health center and asking for counseling, and by joining some clubs and activities so you can interact with new people."
DEAR ABBY: Why are brownies called brownies if they are black? -- JUST WONDERING IN HOUSTON
DEAR JUST WONDERING: I took your question to Lachlan Sands, executive chef at Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, Los Angeles, who says, "The first mention of 'brownies' is in a Fanny Farmer cookbook published in 1906. They are not called brownies because of the color, but were named after Celtic pixies."
P.S. If your brownies are turning out black, you may be baking them too long.
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.
What teens need to know about sex, drugs, AIDS and getting along with peers and parents is in "What Every Teen Should Know." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $7 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Teen Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)