Today we turn our attention to two of nature's worst mistakes.
Instead of delivering babies to homes occupied by people in their 50s and 60s who are at the peak of their earning power, nature delivers most infants to couples in their 20s who have little money.
Although nature has been turning out babies for thousands of years, the product has not yet been perfected. Repairs are needed with dismaying frequency, and are costly.
Fortunately, one of the nation's finest repair facilities is located here in Washington. When a sick child needs hospitalization, Children's Hospital is ever ready to provide the best of care -- whether or not the child's parents have money. No child is ever turned away because its parents are too poor to pay.
Some parents are covered by insurance, some qualify for help from public or private agencies. When the parents have little or no money and no outside help, the hospital deals with each case on an individual -- and reasonable -- basis.
Some parents need a long time to pay, some can pay only a part of their bill, and some are truly povertystricken. Their debts must be forgiven entirely.
That's the humane way to run a hospital, but a rotten way to meet a payroll. It also explains why Children's is known as "the hospital with the built-in deficit." Since Civil War days, it has been dedicated to the service of needy children of every race and creed.
At Children's Hospital, first priority goes to making sick children well again -- regardless of who is going to pay for what.
Later the hospital figures out how deeply into the red it went in helping poor families. Then it asks you and me to help pay off the deficit.
Each Christmas we do, and each January Children's Hospital starts running up a brand new deficit by continuing to make medical help available to those who can't pay.
The hospital's annual fund campaign begins on Dec. 1. That's when your neighbors begin coming to your door to ask for help for the children, and that's when a few old-timers begin reminding you in print and on the air that it is time to begin writing a tax-deductible check for Children's Hospital. Sometimes District Liners send their checks directly to the hospital, sometimes to two lunatics named Harden and Weaver at WMAL, sometimes to Eddie Gallaher, the sit-down comedian at WASH, and sometimes they're sent to me. The route your check travels doesn't matter. The important thing is to get it to Children's Hospital.
Last year the hospital spent well over $1 million to provide "unreimbursed" medical care, and $205,516.64 of that amount was funneled through this column. Much of that money came from organizations and informal groups. In many instances, people who work in the same office agreed that instead of sending each other holiday cards they would extend good wishes in person and divert to the children the money that would otherwise have been spent on cards and postage.
I would like the record to show that I have never suggested that people stop exchanging greeting cards with friends and relatives, especially with those whom they see infrequently. What I have done, despite annual protests from the greeting card industry, is applaud office mates who would rather provide medical help for poor children than financial aid to a thriving industry.
If nobody in your office has undertaken the job of being Children's Hospital chairman, why not fill the breach yourself this year?
Here's all you need to know: Ask people to make their checks payable to Children's Hospital. If some give you cash, make a list of names and amounts and then obtain one check or money order to cover all the coins and bills, so that you won't have to transmit cash by mail.
Accompany your package of checks with a note telling me who raised the money and how.
No individual givers are ever identified, but every group gift sent through me is acknowledged in the column, whether it is $1.10 from 11 Cub Scouts or $20,000 from Bell System employees. Please remember that only those group gifts that are sent though this column can be recorded here.
Our mailing address? It's on page 2 of our paper every day. To spare you the need to squint at the small type, I'll repeat it here: 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Thank you for caring and sharing.