DEAR ABBY: I have two sisters and three brothers, ranging in age from 52 to 69. All of us except one are comfortable financially.
The exception is our brother "Jerry," who is homeless. He lives in a park and does odd jobs. He owes money for old student loans and probably back taxes, so he's hesitant about finding a "real" job and having to fill out a W-4 form. I believe he uses alcohol and marijuana, but not often.
I am the only family member who is in contact with him, and I give him money occasionally. The others may not be aware of how bad his living situation is. I have no room for him in my house because my adult daughter and grandson moved in.
We are not a close family, although we have no animosity. Should I send an email or letter to my siblings about our brother? Should I ask for suggestions on how to help him? How should it be worded? -- SENSITIVE SIS IN CALIFORNIA
DEAR SENSITIVE SIS: The answer to both questions is yes. Your message doesn't have to be long or fancy. If I were writing it, I would put it this way: "Are you aware that our brother Jerry is homeless, living in a park and surviving on odd jobs? This is a disgrace to our family. Do you have any suggestions about how to help our brother?"
People who live on the streets (or in parks) usually have more problems than unpaid student loans and back taxes. There is often a significant mental health or substance abuse issue. My suggestion would be to involve a social worker in steering your brother toward the help he needs to get his life back. If there is money involved, wouldn't it be more wisely spent that way?
DEAR ABBY: I am a senior citizen and an above-the-knee amputee. I wear a full-leg prosthesis and use crutches. I love being out and about, going to theaters, restaurants, outdoor markets, etc.
How should I respond to the many people who ask me what happened? Did I break my ankle, have knee surgery or what? I know telling them the truth would embarrass them. Abby, please ask your readers to think twice before asking a stranger such a personal question. -- AMPUTEE IN NEW JERSEY
DEAR AMPUTEE: OK, I'll try. Readers, I have advised many times that you not ask strangers personal questions, and this is yet another example.
Now that I have repeated that advice, I'll offer some to you: Please do not worry about embarrassing the questioner. Feel free to tell the truth if you wish. It might teach the person a needed lesson when he or she gets more information than was bargained for. However, if you don't want to divulge, all you have to say is, "That's very personal, and I'd prefer not to discuss it."
DEAR ABBY: I'm getting married next year, and in my excitement, I asked four of my good friends to be my bridesmaids. As the date grows closer, I am realizing just how much a wedding really costs. Would it be wrong for me to change my mind about having bridesmaids? The girls haven't paid for anything yet or wasted any time during the planning process.
Please help me. I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings, but I can't afford to have a wedding party. -- SOUTHERN BELLE
DEAR SOUTHERN BELLE: Contact your good friends individually and explain the situation just as you have explained it to me. Once they understand that financial constraints prevent you from having the wedding you fantasized about, none of them should feel slighted that you need to scale back. Frankly, I commend you on your good judgment in recognizing this now.
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.
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