DEAR ABBY: This may be a first for you. I am a man in my late 50s, divorced, living happily alone by choice and am well-respected in my community. I have no problems. But society has a tremendous problem.

If I found a hungry, homeless dog along the highway and brought it home, fed it and provided for it, everyone would say, "What a kind, generous man you are. God bless you!" But if I found a hungry, homeless human being along the highway who happens to be a middle-age Indian woman, and I brought her home and fed and provided for her, gave her her own bedroom and tried to find a job for her, I am called "a dirty old man"!This is precisely what happened to me. When dirty tongues wag, and they will, how do I respond? Should I put her back on the highway and say, "Sorry, lady, but our society does not approve"?

This is for real, Abby, but please don't print my name or address. Just sign me . . . SOCIETY'S PROBLEM

DEAR SOCIETY'S PROBLEM: Unless your friends and neighbors are told something about this woman who is living in your home, they will be naturally curious. There are many unanswered questions here. The most obvious: What was this hungry, homeless woman doing walking on the highway? Is she an amnesia victim? Is she mentally competent? Is she running from someone? Is she a "missing person"? Is she a fugitive from justice?

Stick to the truth - but don't tell anyone more than you want to.

DEAR ABBY: What do you give a 78-year-old woman who doesn't need anything and can buy anything she wants? The woman is our mother.

The occasion was her birthday, so all five daughters came home to Elgin, Ill., for the weekend to help Mom celebrate. We included her only sister and her grown granddaughter.

We all got into my station wagon and drove to Sears for a family photograph. Then we drove to Chicago where my father had his business 30 years ago. From there, we drove to our old home from which we moved in 1954.

We had dinner at the restaurant where my sister had worked 20 years ago. The next morning we all went out for a farewell breakfast and then went on our way. We made plans to get together again next year to visit the Swedish neighborhood in Chicago, since Mom's parents came over from Sweden about 90 years ago.

The memories of that weekend meant just as much to us five daughters as they did to Mom. And the memories will last much longer than any material gift we could have given her.

Just thought I'd like to share this with you because I'm . . . GLAD WE DID IT

DEAR GLAD: I'm glad you shared it with me. A trip down memory lane is a wonderful gift for someone who has everything.

DEAR ABBY: You may smile at our baby, coo at her, compliment her, but please do not TOUCH her! Our daughter is 6 weeks old, and she accompanies us on outings to the grocery store or the mall, where well-meaning people come up to her and without warning grab her little hands! Like most babies, our daughter is a world-class hand sucker, and whatever was on your hands gets on her hands, which go directly into her mouth!

Babies' immune systems are just developing, and the last thing they need is some unknown person spreading viruses and bacteria through touching the baby's hands. Would these strangers expect us to allow them to put their fingers into our daughter's mouth?

So, the next time you see a darling little baby, please don't put the parents in the position of having to say, "Please don't touch the baby!" - THOMAS FUNK, OR "KEEPING IT CLEAN IN ELK GROVE, CALIF."

DEAR KEEPING: You make an excellent point. I am reminded of a campaign the Mayo Clinic launched some years ago in an effort to remind people to wash their hands. They posted enormous signs with the following message: "The 10 Greatest Spreaders of Disease" - then portrayed the fingers on a pair of hands.