While people a few blocks away were sowing their own brands of hate yesterday, Betty Witcher was sowing love. In an unheated booth outside the F Street entrance of Woodward & Lothrop, she was ringing away on her hand-held bell, beseeching passers-by to drop a dime or a dollar into the Salvation Army kettle.
"All I can do is stand here and ask" for money to help the impoverished, she observed, after perhaps a hundred people walked by without paying her any attention. From 9:45 until nearly noon, she had collected barely $15. Finally a teen-ager halted, pulled a dollar bill from his pocket and pushed it through the kettle's grille, getting Witcher's normal response: "God bless you!"
"Young people are giving more than they used to," she told me, just moments before two more teen-agers dropped coins into the kettle.
"So many people are out of work," she said. "Maybe you and I will have our needs on Christmas, maybe, but so many won't."
Witcher, who came here from Danville, Va., in 1940, has been volunteering to collect funds for the Salvation Army at Christmastime for seven years. A Baptist, she lives in Edgewood Terrace in Northeast.
As for the Klansmen and their adversaries, she was philosophical. "You know we have to leave it up to God . . . we can't do nothing about that but just pray."