"This has been a very bad year for us," says a letter from a reader. "We had unexpected plumbing and roofing repairs to pay for, my mother had emergency surgery, which was very expensive, and my husband's broken foot kept him out of work, and eventually lost him his job.

"So things are pretty tight with us financially, but throughout the year we have been grateful that our child has remained well and untouched by our problems. We are therefore enclosing our annual contribution to Children's Hospital and hope that it will be of help to those who were not blessed as we have been."

Enclosed was a substantial check that set me to marveling anew at people who have much to be thankful for but complain about what has been meted out to them, and at people who have much tocomplain about but express gratitude instead.

Today I can report to you on 15 gifts from groups. Prince George's County Chapter 264 of the National Association of Retired Federal Employees sent me $5. Colmar Manor Unit 131 of the American Legion Auxiliary voted the children $15. Employees of Holmes Intermediate School (Alexandria) Food Service sent me the $20 they saved by agreeing not to exchange holiday cards among themselves.

A check for $21.36 from the Thursday Ladies Triples Bowling League was accompanied by a note that said, "Sorry we couldn't do better, but our bowling league is smaller this year." Yes, I know. The emancipated modern woman doesn't have time for daytime bowling; she's too busy being a wage earner in addition to all her other duties.

Arlington Unit 139 of the American Legion Auxiliary sent me $25 for Children's Hospital. Another $25 arrived from the Junior Girls Unit of the Ladies Auxiliary to Scott Johnson Collins VFW Post 9619. The juniors, ranging in age from 6 to 18, held a spaghetti dinner to raise money for their various charities.

The Thursday Afternoon West End Ladies Bowling League at Glenmont Lanes rolled a $36 check down my lane. Checks totaling $37 arrived with the notation, "Computer Sciences Laboratory, U.S. Army Engineer Topographic Laboratories, Fort Belvoir."

The Lewisdale (Md.) Citizens Association, a longtime supporter of the hospital, is back this year with another $50 assist. The decision not to exchange intramural holiday cards within the Congressional Record Index Office diverted $55 to providing medical help for a needy child. At the World Bank, the same simple idea produced $73.50 from the men and women in Administrative Services, Art & Design, Cartography and Procurement.

Four of today's checks were in the three-digit range. The Women's Auxiliary to the Metropolitan Washington Association of Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors chipped in $100. Another $100 arrived from Episcopal Churchwomen, St. Johns Church in Mount Rainier. The folks at the Deepwood Veterinary Center in Clifton, Va., came through with $200. And another $200 arrived from the Bon-Tons Club, which has been supporting the hospital with the built-in deficit for many years.

It didn't take long to dtermine that these 15 groups contributed a total of $962.86, but the District Line's cordless abacus almost blew a fuse when it had to cope with 144 letters from individuals who added $4,807 to the shoebox and brought today's total to $5,769.86.Inasmuch as we had $12,436.55 on hand when we began today's tally, the shoebox now holds $18,206.41.


Readers sometimes ask whether they can send me a check in memory of someone who has died, or in honor of a living person.

The answer to both questions is, "Yes." The names of people involved in gifts are never mentioned in this column, but if you stipulate that your donation is in memory of one who had died and if you give the name and address of that person's family, the hospital will send an appropriate card stating that a gift has been made (but not the amount). If you say your gift is in honor of a living person and give that person's name and address, the hospital will notify the person you designate (but will not mention the amount given).

Make your check payable to Children's Hosptial. During December and January, you can send it through me if you wish. After the formal fund campaign ends on Jan. 31, please send checks directly to Children's Hospital. Neither its services nor its need for funds will end on christmas night. They will go on all year.