Dear Annie: I have known my stepsister, "Lottie," for a long time. We get along great. I think Lottie is hiding the fact that she is gay, which is fine, if that's how she wants it, but I feel so bad that she has been keeping this inside for years. I want to let her know that I am here for her and that if she wants to talk about anything, I will listen without judgment and she can share her feelings with me.
Since she has hidden her sexual orientation for so long, it seems she doesn't want anyone to know. Should I approach her about this, and if so, how? - Supportive in Virginia
Dear Virginia: You are making an assumption that may not be accurate, so it would be wise to say nothing to Lottie directly. It really is not your business, and she could be offended by your prying.
If, however, you want to give Lottie the impression that her sexual orientation would not be an issue, bring up the subject the next time there is something in the news about gay marriage or if a sports star comes out publicly. Say neutrally that you don't understand what all the fuss is about. It may open up a dialogue about sexual orientation, which will make Lottie feel comfortable coming to you if she decides to do so.
Dear Annie: I'd like to reply to "Madison, Wis.," who said she could never marry a Republican because they are mean-spirited, bigoted, selfish, closed-minded and hypocritical. That is absurd. Her statement only shows how closed-minded she is that she labels an entire group of people. And if she wants to see a hypocrite, she should look in the mirror.
I could mention how many people see Democrats as left-wing loonies and immoral individuals who do not live in reality, but that also is absurd. Both parties have their misfits and members with extreme views, but diversity and different ideas should be welcomed. That is what makes our nation so great. - New York Republican
Dear New York: We agree there was a great deal of generalization in "Madison's" remarks, but quite a few readers wrote back with equally unkind generalizations. Your letter was one of the few printable ones.
The degree of animosity between adherents of each political party seems to have reached an all-time high. Disagreeing with someone should not be a reason to hate them and everyone who lives on their block. Get it together, people. If you don't like those in charge, run for office or work for a candidate you respect.
Dear Annie: I am the mother of two boys. They both love sports, particularly the practices, but they hate games because there is too much pressure on them to win. Sometimes my boys come home in tears because they dropped a ball in the outfield or missed an easy layup. I've seen children sit on the bench for the entire game and not get any playing time. These experiences make them frustrated and want to give up on the sport.
I would like to challenge all parents to make recreational sports fun for the kids again. Instead of focusing on who won or who lost or what went wrong, let's work on helping them love exercise and team spirit. Let's teach them to treat all team members with respect and encouragement.
I now try to focus on the positive and ask my sons and their friends, "What was your best play today?" or "What was your favorite part of the game?" Their faces usually light up when they respond. Almost every child can find at least one good thing, even if it is only the after-game snack. And to all those coaches and parents who already focus on the positive aspects, keep up the good work! - Virginia Mom
Dear Virginia: You are so right. Team sports can teach children wonderful things, and wins and losses should not be the sole focus of the game.
This Classic Annie's Mailbox column was originally published in 2005. To find out more about Classic Annie's Mailbox and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit Creators Syndicate at www.creators.com.