"Each year," says a letter from Upper Marlboro, "our family makes a gift to Children's Hospital instead of buying gifts for my parents.

"Previously, I sent our contribution directly to the hospital. But I have always agonized with you over whether you would match your previous year's total, so this year I want to send our check through you.

"The state of the economy being what it is, I am afraid that you and the children at the hospital will need all the help you can get this year."

First let me thank you for your empathy. It reassures me to know that somebody is helping me worry.

Next let me repeat a theme previously enunciated here: It is not yet time to panic about the state of our economy.

The Carter administration has publicly announced the adoption of policies designed to diminish inflation by slowing economic growth. Yet hardly a day passes without somebody rushing to the media with the "news" that economic growth may slow down in the months ahead. The wording of these great pronouncements usually creates the impression that slower growth will probably cause the sky to fall and bring on a terrible recession.

I think the surest way to bring on a rescession is to work ourselves into a state of panic about what might happen or what could happen.

This column's collections for Children's Hospital are indeed running behind last year's totals, but I refuse to draw a trend line through one reference point. Let's wait until Dec. 31 before we ring any alarm bells.

Meanwhile, we can begin today's tally by noting the arrival of a $10 check that carries the notation, "Kensington Bridge Club 'Set Purse.'" Personnel of the Property Management Branch at Goddard Space Flight Center chipped in $26.25. The kitty raised by those in the Airspace and Air Traffic Rules Division of the FAA's Air Traffic Service came to $42.

"Leftover cookie money" usually pays for camping trips for Girl Scout Troop 2276 (Alexandria), but this year the girls voted to skip one trip so that they could divert $50 to Children's Hospital. The Three Fours Club (women who have been working for charitable causes for 35 years) also sent me $50. And a third $50 check is at hand from the VFW's Southern Charles County Ladies Memorial Auxiliary 10081.

Employees of Riverdale District 172 of the United Insurance Co. of America chipped in $56, and precisely the same amount was raised by the Thursday Ladies Day Bowling League.

There will be no exchange of holiday cards in the Comptroller's Office of the Harry Diamond Laboratory at HQ-ERADCOM, but $60, is now earmarked for medical aid to a needy child. The same idea netted $89.37 in the Office of ADP Administration in the Patent and Trademark Office.

The no-card plan broke into three-digit territory among employees of the Defense Logistics Agency's Supply Operations, Systems Branch, where $102 was raised for the children. And employees of the Retired Persons Pharmacy wrote me a check to match this jingle: "We passed the hat without a lot of jive, and picked up some bucks, one hundred and five: perhaps this will help some sick little kid, and to you, Bill Gold, a tip of the lid."

The message from Suburban Trust Co. was in prose, not poetry, and explained that the bank's EDP Division (Systems and Programming Department, Computer Operations and Systems Programming) had refrained from sending each other 56 percent more holiday cards than last year and thereby raised $280. The White House will be asked to rule that 56 percent increases in gifts to Children's Hospital do not violate its wage-price guidelines. Sales and Administrative Personnel at the W.C. and A.N. Miller Development Co. decided not to send each other $292 worth of cards.

Today's top honors go to the students, faculty and staff at Meadowbrook Elementary School in Bowie who raised $351.04 through spirited competition among the various classrooms there. A tip of the hat to you, Meadowbrook, but also a warning: I hear that Martin Luther King Jr. Junior High School in Beltsville is out to beat your mark.

To summarize: 15 groups have contributed $1,619.66, and 90 anonymous individuals have added $2,421 to make today's tally $4,040.66 and our total to date $26,365.97. On Dec. 19, 1977, we had $37,140.67. So we are running 29 percent behind last year.

I would say this is a time for concern and for redoubled effort, not panic. Is your check in yet?