DEAR ABBY: I was a bit shocked when I read about the family who disposed of 17 casseroles they were given while they were grieving the loss of a loved one ("Enough Is Too Much," July 5). When my dad died, family flooded into our small town. We got casseroles, too, but more appreciated was the huge plastic container filled with all sorts of sandwiches we could grab when hungry.
Someone else brought a 10-pound bag of coffee and creamers to go with it. Another brought restaurant gift cards, stamps and a box of thank-you notes. Years later, when our son died, many wonderful people gave money. Since he left two children, it was very much appreciated. -- THANKFUL IN WASHINGTON
DEAR THANKFUL: Readers like you were eager to share their opinions -- and experiences -- regarding the tradition of delivering food to a grieving family. The responses were diverse and enlightening. The media provides so much coverage about hatred and violence. I was touched by the outpouring of kindness. Read on:
DEAR ABBY: If you collect more casseroles than you can handle, why not consider taking them to a homeless shelter? Take them to seniors who aren't able to cook. Take them to a convalescent home or to a library that gives free lunches to the needy. Take them to a food bank. It's awful to throw good food away! -- GAIL IN LOS OSOS, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: There's no reason to turn away loving gifts of food. Talk to a few neighbors and store some of the casseroles at their houses, letting them know it's OK to enjoy them if you haven't picked them up in a day or two. Lots of people have extra refrigerators or freezers, so the food doesn't have to go to waste. -- DENISE IN BAYTOWN, TEXAS
DEAR ABBY: After my husband passed away, several people brought paper products (toilet paper, paper towels, napkins, facial tissue, paper plates and cups, trash sacks, etc.). I have done this for bereaved families as well. Because the family will have lots of people dropping in, a supply of these products will be used and do not need to be stored. A book of stamps in a sympathy card is also useful. -- SUE IN MERRIMAN, NEB.
DEAR ABBY: In my community, we have often organized a sign-up sheet for people to bring meals to a mourning family during a two-week period instead of bringing a casserole immediately. (We also do this in times of illness.) I think it's deeply appreciated and prevents the kind of waste described in "Enough's" letter. -- LAUREN IN PALO ALTO, CALIF.
DEAR ABBY: No one should be putting casseroles down the disposal when they should be put into the trash if not shared with others. My concern is that water utilities across the country are being overwhelmed and at the breaking point because of waste inappropriately disposed through a city's water system. -- GIVE UTILITIES A BREAK!
DEAR ABBY: We had a celebration of life for my husband in our home. Many people brought food, far more than our family could use. After folks left, we took the casseroles, boxes of chicken and desserts to our fire and police stations. The men and women there were thrilled. It was a good use of the food and a way to thank those who serve the community. -- KATHRYN IN PEACHTREE CITY, GA.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Contact Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.
For everything you need to know about wedding planning, order "How to Have a Lovely Wedding." Send your name and mailing address, plus check or money order for $8 (U.S. funds) to: Dear Abby, Wedding Booklet, P.O. Box 447, Mount Morris, IL 61054-0447. (Shipping and handling are included in the price.)