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THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS

Dear Ann Landers: I am enclosing a news story from the Observer-Reporter in Washington, Pa. I was impressed by the kindness of the young people mentioned. These days, when we read so much about the trouble teen-agers get into, I thought this item might give your readers a more balanced view. I would be proud to be the grandmother of any of these children.

-- E.L., West Alexander, Pa.

Dear E.L.: So would I. Here's the story:

For 15 years, students at Ambridge Area High School have been volunteering once a month to be pallbearers at Kasper Funeral Home in Ambridge, Pa., which is 10 miles north of Pittsburgh.

"Once you see people die, you realize you shouldn't be mean to anyone," said Mark Swiontek, a volunteer and member of the high school's Technology Student Association. "You should visit your grandmother today, because tomorrow she may not be here," Mark added.

Vocational students began carrying caskets when funeral director Walter Kasper couldn't get pallbearers because friends and family members were too old, too sick or too overcome by grief to carry the casket. "I asked the principal of the high school if he could get volunteers to fill in, and he thought it was a great idea." The job fell to vocational students because they had time off between classes. One family member said, "They dress real nice, are very mannerly, and the families really appreciate it."

Kasper added: "It's a sacred thing they are doing. Without them, I don't know how we could get those caskets into the churches and to the cemeteries. God bless them."

And now, this is Ann Landers saying, "Amen."

Ignorance is bliss

Dear Ann Landers: I have read your column for many years and am aware of your concern for the elderly. I am 79 and would be delighted if you printed my poem.

-- Mary Catherine Fisher,
Natchitoches, La.
Dear Mary Catherine: I love your poem and am sure my readers will enjoy it as well. Here it is:

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