On a Christmas card, a mother wrote: "Nineteen years ago, our daughter had her tonsils removed at Children's Hospital. She insisted on having me stay in the room with her. A bed was moved in for me, and we were supposed to be charged $5 for it.

"We were never billed for that $5, possibly because they knew we were strapped for cash at the time. Now that money is more plentiful, please add the enclosed check for $25 to your shoebox."

You might think $5 isn't important enough to remember for 19 years, but an unexpected kindness can make a lasting impression. Each year I get hundreds of checks from people who write. "They were so wonderful to us when our child was a patient there."

Inevitably, there are also a few letters each year that begin, "Our child wasn't as fortunate as most who undergo surgery at Children's, and the years have never fully erased the grief we felt when we lost him. This check is offered in his memory."

But there are other letters, too, like this one from J.E.

"Ten weeks ago tomorrow, the good Lord blessed my husband and me with our first child, a beautiful daughter. She has revolutionized our lives with a new and beautiful love that overwhelms us daily. Now ever child has acquired a preciousness we never felt or saw before. We pray that our darling will never need the services of Children's Hospital, and we pray also that no child will ever have to be denied those services for lack of funds. We send up the enclosed check in grateful appreciation to God."

In all, 59 individuals sent checks totaling $1,540 today, and 21 other checks represented group efforts. A young man who went door to door soliciting help for the hospital from his neighbors in Potomac collected $9.84. Circle No. 1, Women's Association of Northeastern Presbyterian Church, chipped in $15. The Food Service staff of Holmes Intermediate School (Fairfax County) got up a kitty of $30.

Employees of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers sent me $50, and another $50 arrived from the Index Department of the Bireau of National Affairs, where no intramural holiday cards were exchanged. The Federal Toastmistress Club saved $54. The Division of Technical Reports at Interior's Bureau of Mines reported in with $55.

The Photographic Department of the American National Red Cross sent me a check for $60 pinned to a note that said, "You have a standing offer to have your picture taken while given blood." No, thanks. I can't bear to look when they stick the needle into me, and I take a rotten picture with my eyes closed.

No card exchange among employees of the Supply Operations Systems Branch (DLA-OPP) of the Defense logistics Agency diverted $73.50 to the hospital. The Telecommunications Service at the Veterans Administration sent in $75. Sears Roebuck employees in Divisions 200 and 200T contributed $80 in the name of a girl who was recently a patient at Children's Hospital.

Recognizing that "it takes more than a song to provide medical care for needy children," the Potamac Harmony Chapter of Sweet Adlines, Inc. sent me $100. The Altrusa Club of Montgomery County also gave the children $100. A third C-note came from the Geological Survey's National Catographic Information Center, where no holiday cards were exchanged.

No card exchange among staffers on the Tiros Project at the Goddard Space Flight Center netted $10L. When the no-card plan was put into effect in the Office of the Joint Secretariat, Organization of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it produced a $135 attack upon the built-in deficit at Children's Hospital. And in VA's Administrative Services, the no-card idea was good for $166.95.

The people at Miles Glass chipped in $200. HUD's Office of Property Disposition exchanged no in-house cards and sent me $281.50. A whopping $302 arrived from yet another group at Goddard Space Flight Center - the MAD (Music and Drama) Christmas Chorus, which put on a smash-hit benefit performance for the hospital.

Biggest contribution of the day - $3411 - came from the FBI's technical services Division. No cards.

To summarize, 21 groups contributed $2,379.79. When we add this sum to the $1,540 tallied from individuals we get a total of $3,919.79 for theday. Having begun the day with $40,343.79 in the shoebox, we now have $44,263.58 in the till. We need $131,000 more just to match last year's total.