During the holiday season, families and friends often gather and give thanks for the good things life has brought them. Usually just being together at Christmas time is the catalyst for these expressions, but occasionally unpleasant events cause people to realize how fortunate they are.

Two such letters arrived this morning. Each contained a personal contribution to the free care fund maintained at Children's Hospital to provide free or low cost medical care for needy children.

"I sent you my annual contribution last Monday. This additional contribution is because on Wednesday I was robbed. No, I am not crazy. . . I reacted very normally to the experience with shock, fear, indignation, anger . . . the whole bit. But when I recovered and took stock, I realized how lucky I was.

"I had been accosted on my way back from the grocery store, and my cart full of groceries was not touched. I had food to eat, a home to go to, clothing, and sufficient funds to carry me through until my next retirement check comes.

"I am a senior citizen retired on a modest pension after 33 years of fruitful labor. When I was a child the doctors said that because of a congenital defect I would never be able to work at all. Fifteen years ago, my cardiologist used me as an example to teach his classes how to recognize my specific defect in others, particularly babies. Ten years ago the defect was corrected by open heart surgery. Now he tells me the condition is rarely encountered anymore except in babies, because the babies receive corrective surgery before they are old enough to be aware they have a defect. And over the past few years I have read of several such operations being done at Children's Hospital.

"How fortunate I have been to have been able to work despite my defect, and to have reached retirement age and not be dependent on anyone! How wonderful that children born nowadays with that defect won't have to go through the restrictive childhood and youth that I suffered. In gratitude to God, Who has so blessed me, and all the younger generation, here is a supplemental check."

That letter came from a victim of crime and intimidation. It is truly wonderful and inspiring to find that people like this great friend of Children's Hospital still exist.

The other letter described a less traumatic situation. It read:

"I fell down my cellar steps last night and got banged up. While waiting in the Arlington Hospital emergency room for X-rays, I remembered that I hadn't sent my annual check to Children's Hospital!

"So here it is. Something good comes from everything, even a fall."

My only hope is that next year, the reminder will be more gentle.

Those two readers joined 109 other individuals who contributed a total of $2,856.25 to help reduce the "built-in deficit" at Children's Hospital National Medical Center.A few area organizations and employers also contributed to today's collection, making it one of our best days thus far.

At the top of the batting order was a $12 check from the Kensington, Md. Bridge Club, representing "set pennies." Two nameless bridge clubs, composed of "Air Force Officers Wives," collected $73.34 over the past year. "This really gives more meaning and purpose to our get-togethers," they wrote.

The Women of the Church of District Heights Presbyterian Church added $200 to the shoebox, hoping "it will help a little." It helps a lot.

"This year, as in the past, the employes of E-Systems, Melpar Division decided to make contributions to Children's Hospital in lieu of sending Christmas cards to one another. Enclosed please find a check in the amount of $2,500, all of which was contributed by Melpar people," wrote the fine folks there. Very nice!

Individual contributions, as noted, reached $2,856.25, and our four groups added $2,785.34 for a really smashing daily total of $5,641.59. Added to yesterday's figure of $28,816.55 gives us a new shoebox net of $34,458.14. Last year at this time, the shoebox held $32,891.66. We're just barely ahead this season. The tempo has to increase.

Let's all pull together to make these next several days really count. Please send your tax deductible check, made payable to Children's Hospital, to: Scott Chase, c/o The Washington Post, 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. Thanks!