Dear Abby: Recently a reader wrote telling you that she sees nothing wrong with listing toy preferences and clothing sizes on birthday party invitations. After all, she said, birthday gifts are expected. I am certain that she wrote this based upon her frame of reference, but I would like to respond from mine.

Last year, my son had a party to celebrate his 11th irthday. Written invitations - no mention of gifts - were distributed. The day of the party, one invited boy phoned to say he would not show up. Knowing a little about the boy and his family, I suspected the problem was that he could not afford a gift - so I whispered a suggestion to my son while he was still on the phone. Then, continuting his conversation with the boy, my son said, "Come to the party. And don't worry about a present. I have plenty of toys. I just want YOU." The boy came to the party, with no present. No one cared.Another boy showed up and presented my son with an obviously used toy, which was the cause of tears that night in bed. Mo son was upset and trying to figure out if he sould keep the present or return it to his friend, a classmate. A few days before the party, my son had found out the boy was living in a dilapidated shack with his family - a discovery that was anything but easy for my son to deal with.

Imagine if we had listed appropriate gifts on a party invitation! How unkind that would have been. None of us ever really knows what the circumstances are for others, and because we never know, perhaps it's best not to make assumption.

- Caroline in Astoria, Ore.

Dear Caroline: How true. Your letter illustrates that point very well.

Dear Abby: I thought you might enjoy this story. My grandson and granddaughter were invited to their grandmother's house for Christmas dinner.

Noting all the candles on the table, my grandson said there were enough for a menorah. His grandmother replied that she didn't really know what a menorah is used for, whereupon my 10-year-old granddaughter said, "Grandma, that what you spread on the garden."

- Bud in St. Pete

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