Al Lawson could have written that Beatles song about getting by with a little help from his friends.
Lawson is director of development for the Children's Hospital National Medical Center, which is a fancy way of saying he raises the money. But it would be hard to find a more unremarkable office for a guy who plays such a remarkable role.
At the lip of Lawson's desk is a standard-issue nameplate that reads "Alfred B. Lawson Jr." and a plain, wooden plaque that reads "Either Push Or Pull Or Get The Hell Out Of The Way."
His desk top is an unremarkable collection of pens, phone messages and rings left by coffee cups. Off to one side are some unremarkable files; to the other, some unremarkable chairs. And the whole office is only as wide as three broom closets.
But ah, the walls. They're remarkable.
They're full of photos of Al Lawson's friends, men and women who have helped raise big bucks for the big needs of Children's Hospital.
Isn't that former Redskin Larry Brown, watching a golf ball he has just hit soar off into space? Sure is. And over there -- that's the former coach, George Allen. Joe Theismann, too.
Nearby, mugging as usual, are Frank Harden and Jackson Weaver, the clown princes of WMAL-AM radio's morning drive-time show. Over in the corner is local TV and radio personality Johnny Holliday. In the other corner is one James Earl Carter, speaking at the 1977 dedication of the new Children's building. And just a few feet away is another distinguished benefactor of the hospital: Dwight David Eisenhower.
"I have friends, lots of friends," says Al Lawson. "And all the people you see here have helped us a lot over the years.
"But the thing about this job is that I always need more."
Especially this year. Children's Hospital faces a situation Al Lawson calls "kind of frightening."
A variety of hospital programs and support services might have to be slashed or suspended if money doesn't materialize. Another casualty might be a Children's policy that's as old as the hospital itself: free care for those who can't afford to pay.
"It would be disastrous if we had to do any of that," Lawson says. "But the way to avoid a disaster is to raise more money."
Lawson is doing just that so far this fiscal year. "We're running ahead of last year, just a little," he says. But that is because of the $135,000 raised in the hospital's first raffle this fall. "Without that, we'd be even or somewhat behind," Lawson says.
And that's just in terms of raw dollar totals. If you want to speak in terms of the purchasing power of each dollar raised, you have to take inflation into account. Once you do, you realize that raising the same number of dollars as last year really means that the hospital is falling behind.
To whom can Al Lawson turn to take up the slack? Primarily one kind of person, he says: the small donor.
"I have a friend in Ohio who sends me about $20,000 every year, and a lady here who does the same," Lawson says. "They're wonderful friends. I count on them.
"But the $5 donor is absolutely critical, not just for this year's $5, but because I've seen $5 become $40,000."
That's where you come in.
Think of how little $5 buys in this day and age. A ticket to a movie. A space in a downtown parking lot for all of two hours and one minute. Four gallons of gas on a good day. Twenty-five stamps. One steak. You hardly miss five bucks these days.
Now think of what $5 can buy for Children's Hospital: care for patients who otherwise can't afford it.
It's $5 that can't be spent better. It not only helps weave the web of our community a little tighter, but it gives a chance to a child who might not otherwise get one. And it's tax deductible.
If you can't give $20,000, you can certainly give five. Please do it today. If you do it often enough and generously enough, Al Lawson just might put your face up on the wall alongside the Redskins and the radio stars. Al gets by with a little help from his friends -- but he needs new friends like you.
To contribute to the campaign:
Make checks or money orders payable to Children's Hospital and mail them to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20071.