Evidently, when the going gets tough, the tough get the checkbook.

Back in October, the proprietor of a small family market on Alabama Avenue SE. was robbed at gunpoint by two teenagers. Luckily, no one was hurt, but when the proprietor and I spoke on the phone the next day, he was plenty rattled.

"What's it going to take to do something about this?" he asked. "Do I have to be killed before somebody's going to pay attention?"

I replied that I hoped we were still a long way from that. Maybe one thing we all could do, I said, is to take a more direct role in preventing kids from getting to the point where they think a gun is the only answer to their problems. For example, I said, we could all give more time and money to community institutions.

The proprietor said he'd give that some thought. Obviously, he did.

In the mail the other day was a $150 check from him, made out to Children's Hospital.

His note said he was making the donation "in memory of those people who have died behind cash registers and will never see their children again . . . So far I am not among them."

I fervently hope you never are, my friend. Not a guy who's got his priorities as solid as you do.

And what about the rest of you? If a grocery store proprietor who has stared down the business end of a gun still believes in his community, can't you?