How to offer condolences to newly widowed neighbor?

DEAR ABBY: I have just learned that a neighbor lost his wife. She died during childbirth. As a wife and mother, all I can think about is that newborn baby boy and his two beautiful sisters. It breaks my heart. I have never spoken to him, but I did chat from time to time with his wife.

I would like to offer help to the father, but I don't know how I should approach him or even if I should. Please offer me some advice.

- Grieving for Them in Hawaii

DEAR GRIEVING: Reach out to your neighbor by writing him a short note saying that you heard the tragic news and would like to offer your condolences. Explain that although you didn't know his wife well, you had spoken with her occasionally. Then offer the kind of help you are willing to give - perhaps meals for his freezer or child care if the need arises. I am sure if you do, the gesture will be appreciated.

Shocking treatment

DEAR ABBY: My husband and I enjoy going to estate sales. Recently, we were shocked when we heard an estate sales representative ask an older lady if she could afford what she was looking at. The woman answered "yes." Shortly after that, as the woman was leaving, the estate representative asked her if she could search the pockets in her jacket! She said "yes," and nothing was found on her. The estate sales representative followed up with, "You know how it is."

We were appalled, to say the least. We had been browsing right along with the older lady and saw nothing suspicious. What do you make of this? Should we have said something?

- Gracie in New Mexico

DEAR GRACIE: Since I wasn't there, I can't guess at what may have triggered the sales rep's suspicions, but her treating a prospective customer in such a heavy-handed manner is surprising. I have seen wealthy shoppers at more than one estate sale who "dressed down" to enable themselves to get a better bargain. That said, I think you were wise not to intervene. To have done otherwise might have caused a scene and embarrassed the shopper even more than she already was.

Resents strict parents

DEAR ABBY: My parents are driving me crazy. About six months ago, they opened a little store close to where we live. Every day since it opened, they have made me work with them, on the weekends as well as after school until 6 p.m., when Dad gets there.

I'm tired of working there. They don't pay me and are very strict. I want to tell them I don't want to work there anymore, but I'm afraid if I do they will punish me. Can you tell me what to do?

- Driven Crazy in Illinois

DEAR DRIVEN CRAZY: I don't know how old you are, but your parents wouldn't be doing this if they didn't need your help. Please try to step up to the plate with less resentment. By being involved in the family business, you are learning not only responsibility, but also skills that will be valuable when you are older.

What you need to do now is recognize that your parents need you and, provided the work doesn't conflict with your schoolwork and normal social life, be proud that you are capable enough to contribute in a meaningful way.