DEAR ABBY: I have enjoyed reading the occasional letters people write you about the acts of kindness they have experienced. I would like to share one that happened to me. About a year ago my husband left me. Shortly afterward, I learned that he had embezzled funds from work, been fired from his job, and that our home was in foreclosure and the utility bills had not been paid. I had been an agoraphobic housewife for years. In a panic for funds, I held a yard sale. That weekend I met quite a few of my neighbors and, in the course of the day, we shared stories of marriages gone wrong. I received many words of encouragement, even as I watched my beloved possessions carted away for a pittance. But the most amazing thing happened that day. A woman I'd never met before came back after the sale, handed me an envelope and left. Inside was $200. I cried like a baby. Since then, I have overcome my agoraphobia, found a job and an apartment, and have begun the long process of rebuilding my life. I have no way to find that angel to thank her, but I'm hoping she reads this letter and knows that through her act of faith and love she helped me to achieve independence. You are, indeed, an angel, mystery woman! -- MS. B. FROM HORN LAKE, MISS. DEAR MS. B.: The kind of empathy you described is usually demonstrated by someone who has experienced a similar kind of pain. Doing a good deed for someone in need can be an empowering act - not only for the receiver but also for the doer. Sometime in the future, you will meet a person who needs a helping hand - and when you do, you'll pass her good deed along and be a "guardian angel," too. DEAR ABBY: I'm a 16-year-old girl from a loving family. My mom and I argue about only one thing - my hair. Mom wants me to have short hair, but I want it long. I think I am old enough to decide how I want to wear my hair. I have tried to compromise with her about it, but she won't listen. I take care of my hair by myself, so I don't understand. Please help me. -- CONFIDENT WITH LONG HAIR IN FREMONT, N.C. DEAR CONFIDENT WITH LONG HAIR: At 16 you should be able to wear your hair as you wish, as long as it's clean and neat. I wish you had told me exactly what your mother's objection is to long hair. Could it be that she's afraid it will be too time-consuming to take care of? If that's the problem, then it may be this argument isn't really about hair at all. It's about her asserting control and your deferring to her wishes. If that's the case she's squandering her authority - because a wise parent chooses her battles more carefully. DEAR ABBY: With the holiday season fast approaching, my husband and I are wondering what does one give to the day-care provider who cares for our child during the work week? Should it be a monetary gift, or a personal gift for her? Your suggestions would be greatly appreciated. -- CURIOUS IN AUSTIN, TEXAS DEAR CURIOUS: A nice card with money is always appropriate - and that way your day-care provider can select something she would like or perhaps needs. Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.