DEAR ABBY: While my daughter and I were at the supermarket, we ran into Santa at the deli! You can't imagine my daughter's surprise &

not to mention my own.

There he was, with his perfect bowling ball head and full white beard. He had a jolly big belly, rosy cheeks, even small square wire-framed glasses. He wasn't dressed in his traditional holiday outfit; he was casually dressed.

My daughter, who is 9, had started having serious doubts about Santa last year, but she sure does believe now. She ran up to him and said, "I knew it! I knew you were real! Where's your sleigh? Where's your reindeer?"

The man winked at me, looked down at my daughter and said, "Sweetheart, they're at the North Pole. I'm in the area checking things out before Christmas." Then he asked her if she had been a good girl. When she said yes, he advised her to write him a letter. It was wonderful.

I know some people don't believe, and I know some feel it is technically lying to children, and not everyone shares the same religious beliefs. I respect their right to celebrate the holidays in their own way.

I grew up poor. I knew when Christmas morning came it would be no different than the year before on Christmas Day &

there would be nothing. I missed out on so many wonderful things in my childhood.

Like many parents, I want my kids to have the childhood I didn't have. I studied hard, got a good education, met a wonderful man and married. We have two beautiful daughters, 9 and 11. We're not rich, but we're comfortable and don't want for much.

Every Christmas, my children and I go to the local mall and visit the Orphan Tree. Each of them chooses an orphan and buys him or her whatever is on his/her list. I explained when they were younger that sometimes even Santa needs a helping hand. I also point out how fortunate they are &

and when you are fortunate, you must give something back.

To you and your readers: Whether you choose to believe or not &

I wish you happy holidays.

"" STILL A BELIEVER IN OHIO

DEAR STILL A BELIEVER: It is a wise parent who not only enjoys the holiday season, but also uses it as a teachable moment to show children the true spirit of giving to others. Happy holidays to you, too &

and to my readers as well.

DEAR ABBY: My friend "Phil" books an annual trip every year for a closely knit group of 12 friends. We pay him by check and eventually receive flight schedules, hotel reservations, etc.

We have recently learned that Phil receives about $500 a year in perks and credit card points for booking these trips. He never mentioned it to any of us. Instead, he makes believe that we're indebted to him for his service.

Isn't it customary and ethical to redistribute such money to everyone in one form or another? Should we confront him about this?

"" COUSIN ROB IN NEW YORK

DEAR COUSIN ROB: I see no reason to confront Phil. Nor do I see why he should compensate you and the others for any money he received for doing all the work of arranging the trips. The arrangement you have described is not uncommon.

However, if you and the others feel cheated because Phil was compensated for something you assumed he was doing for nothing &

then each of you should take turns making the travel plans so the perks and airline points are automatically divided among you. (When you do, you may find that Phil worked hard for the money.)

Dear Abby is written by , also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.