Can't let the office party season fade away without recounting what happened at a downtown law firm a few days ago.

At most firms, the holiday party menu consists of those classic deli sandwich platters. Or maybe a pasta bar. Or, if the bottom line is having a rough year, chips and dip.

At a downtown firm that specializes in difficult litigation, the menu was . . .

Raw meat.

Speaking of lawyer stories that are so Washington that they squeak, try this, from my old buddy John Jay Daly.

John has a friend named Tom Antion, of Landover Hills. Tom is often asked to play Santa Claus at this time of year. He almost always obliges.

Early this month, Tom did the ho-ho honors for children of National Geographic Society employees. As each child climbed onto his lap, Tom said what he always says:

"Now, don't forget, be extra good between now and Christmas, and on Christmas Eve, be sure to go to bed early."

One girl, about 5, heard this spiel and replied:

"Why? Is that a federal law or something?"

Then there was the little girl who approached her mother, in a distraught state.

As reported in a newsletter forwarded to me by Leslie Goodman-Malamuth, the girl said:

"Some of the kids in my class have a father who's a lawyer, or a mother who's a lawyer, or maybe both of them are.

"You and Daddy aren't lawyers. What's wrong with our family?"

Finally, this tale from Doug McElroy, of Bethesda, who wants to be sure the world knows he is not a lawyer.

Doug was tucking in Jason (age 6) when son asked father the classic question: What should he become when he grows up?

Doug replied that Jason could become whatever he wants. Jason mulled that for a long minute. Then he said:

"I think I'll become a lawyer. They get to scream at people."


Students of love can put whatever spin on this story they like. I prefer to think it proves once and for all that even when romance goes sour, good instincts don't.

In the mail the other day came a $30 check from a 22-year-old woman. Until the weekend of Dec. 9, life was treating her pretty well.

She had graduated in May from George Washington University. She quickly got -- and has kept -- a good job. She was cooking along with her boyfriend of four years' standing, so much so that she sprang for an expensive Christmas present for him.

But then they broke up. The woman's first move was to return the former beau's gift. Her second move was to send me a $30 check -- "a good portion" of what the gift had cost.

"I could not think of a better way to use that money," she said.

I'm sorry that misfortune spurred your generosity, kind lady. But thanks just the same. Our annual fund-raising campaign needs help from many sources, for whatever reasons. Otherwise, Children's Hospital cannot continue to do its good work for sick kids from all walks of life.

Perhaps there is a larger economic lesson in Helen M. Jenkins's tabulation, and perhaps there isn't. In any case, our holiday-season drive is glad to be the beneficiary.

Back in 1989, Helen decided to send me a check for twice as much money as she had found on the street that year. It was only $3.52 that first time around. But here's how the ledger now reads:

1990 -- $9.76.

1991 -- $11.52.

1992 -- $30.12.

1993 -- $15.76.

1994 -- $26.70.

1995 -- $50.10.

How to explain that 1995 entry? "Either people are throwing it away faster, or I'm just getting better at it," Helen says.

Either way, my friend, we are grateful for your caring and your dollars. Perhaps others who stumble across unexpected riches will follow your lead.

Our goal by Jan. 19: $575,000.

In the till already: $242,649.33. TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE CAMPAIGN:

Make a check or money order payable to Children's Hospital and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C. 20071. TO CONTRIBUTE BY VISA OR MASTERCARD:

Call 202-334-9000 on a touch-tone phone. Then punch in K-I-D-S, or 5437, and follow instructions.