Dear Abby: A year and a half ago, a newly married young couple moved into a house down the street.

Dear Abby: A year and a half ago, a newly married young couple moved into a house down the street. A few weeks after they moved in, my husband, my daughter and I went over with a gift to introduce ourselves and welcome them. They were super friendly. My husband told them if they needed anything to let us know. Shortly afterward, the husband contacted my husband and said since they were newly married, they couldn’t afford a lawn mower and asked if they could borrow ours. “Of course” was our answer. It’s a year and a half later. They still borrow our mower, along with other items like a leaf blower or a weed whacker. They often go on weeklong or weekend trips to expensive places. While they’re gone, they sometimes ask my husband to mow their yard for them, which he does. They are always grateful. However I’m to the point where enough is enough. It doesn’t feel neighborly anymore. It feels like we are being taken advantage of. How do we politely say, “You need to get your priorities straight. Quit going on trips and buy yourself a mower”?

Happy to Help to a Point

Dear Happy: In the interest of neighborhood harmony, refrain from giving this couple travel advice or directing them to straighten their priorities. The next time they ask to borrow your equipment, simply tell them no, because you need to use it. Then mention the name of a home and garden store where they can buy what they need at a reasonable price. The same goes for mowing their lawn while they are traveling. After a few refusals, they’ll get the idea.

Dear Abby: What is your definition of a “friend”? I rarely, if ever, hear from friends I’ve had my entire life. And when I do, it’s usually in response to a contact I have initiated. My late mother felt that as long as you have someone you can count on in a stressful time, that’s a friend. I disagree. I think friends should make an effort to maintain contact and keep the relationship alive. Wasn’t the primary attraction of things like email and social media that it would be easier to stay in touch with people? (I remember the days when making a long-distance phone call was a big deal.) So I ask again, Abby. Objectively speaking, how do YOU define “friendship”?

Feeling Alone in New York

Dear Feeling Alone: It depends upon the individuals involved. Some people need constant contact. Others, particularly busy people, do not. Since you asked for my personal bias, I’ll tell you I agree with your mother. Not all relationships have the same amount of depth. Individuals who have been there for me during the times when the going got rough — and there have been some — are those I consider to be real friends. Whether we are in constant contact or not, we know we are there for each other. To me, that is friendship.

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 or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.