Thursday, January 17, 2013

Pauline Phillips aka Abigail Van Buren, aka Dear Abby

Dear Abby has died. I mean the original one, Pauline Phillips. Her daughter took over the column several years ago.

Dear Abby and Ann Landers (Eppie Lederer) were identical twin sisters. Ironically, they were estranged for years because Pauline started her column a few months after Eppie took over the Ann Landers column. Identical twins who refused to speak to each other were advising people how to conduct their lives.

But here's the column that infuriated me for years. I got mad whenever I thought about it. I finally started talking about it. Talking helped.

Here it is:
Dear Abby: Several years ago, you printed a letter from a young man who had been expecting a new car for his high school graduation gift. To his great disappointment, he received a Bible instead. Out of anger, he stormed out of the house and never spoke to his father again. After his father's funeral, the young man located the Bible his father had given him, only to find a key to a new car taped in the back.
Our pastor would like a copy of that column for a future sermon.I would be most grateful if you would please send me that column.
- Valerie Bosselman, Omaha
Dear Valerie: That column is a long-time favorite of mine. However, as is often the case, a few details are somewhat different from the story you recalled. Here's the original:
Dear Abby: A young man from a wealthy family was about to graduate from high school. It was the custom in that affluent neighborhood for the parents to give the graduate an automobile. "Bill" and his father had spent months looking at cars, and the week before graduation, they found the perfect car.
On the eve of his graduation, his father handed him a gift-wrapped Bible. Bill was so angry that he threw the Bible down and stormed out of the house. He and his father never saw each other again. It was the news of his father's death that brought Bill home again.
As he sat one night going through his father's possessions that he was to inherit, he came across the Bible his father had given him. He brushed away the dust and opened it to find a cashier's check, dated the day of his graduation - in the exact amount of the car they had chosen together.
- Beckah Fink, Texas
Dear Beckah: I hope Bill read the Bible cover to cover, for it contained much that he needed to learn: "A foolish son is a grief to his father, and bitterness to her who bore him." (Proverbs 17:25)

There are only two messages I can make out in this story:

1.  Don't get mad if someone gives you a Bible because it might have a check in it.

2.  If you want to give someone a check, don't put it in a Bible.

And I guess there is a third lesson. That a lot of people have no clue at all. They listen to some parable and act like they're deeply moved by it. In fact, they have no idea that it has any deeper meaning. They'll react the same way to any story as long as it has a Bible in it.

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