Why do people give to Children's Hospital? Let us count the ways.

To find one's equilibrium: "For the first two months after my husband's sudden death in July," writes Lois H. Smith of Fairfax, "it seemed as though nothing would ever be the same. But in the past month or so, I have been starting to put my life back together and picking up the many pieces needed to continue on as before.

"One item to take care of was our donations to worthwhile causes -- Children's Hospital, for one. I'm lucky -- our three grown children never needed the fine services of Children's Hospital and staff. But I am sending a small donation again this year, earlier than usual, it seems, to help them keep up their fine work."

To repay a kindness: Back in September, Cornelia Read of Northwest lost some identification cards. Agony. Grief. Gnashing of teeth over the time it would take to obtain duplicates.

The next day, they were all returned, along with the following note:

"Dear Ms. Read,

"I neither expect nor desire a reward for the return of your cards. Rather, I would be pleased and honored if you would use the enclosed envelope and send any donation you care to make to Children's Hospital.

"You may mention that a bicycle courier who found your cards called himself 'Deep Stroke,' or perhaps, as the weather turns, 'Sore Throat.'

"Thank you

"(Signed) Deep Stroke."

What could Cornelia do but send $10 to our campaign? Thank you, Fumblefingered One. Thank you, too, Pedaling One.

To thank a columnist: That's me, sports fans. The thanker was Sheila R. Billington of Rockville, who was so delighted with an October column of mine about genealogy that she sent in $26.35 -- the cost of the book about the Billington family she was going to buy, but didn't after my warning.

To underscore a clever idea: Out in Bowie, Al and Jo Schweizer certainly came up with one this Halloween. In light of the Tylenol scare, they handed the following slip of paper to every trick-or-treater who rang their bell:

"Because of our concern about the possibility of tampering with food products by people who don't enjoy the spirit of Halloween, we have decided to donate money to the Children's Hospital in Washington, D.C., instead of passing out candy this year. For each of these slips we give out this Halloween, we will send a donation to Bob Levey of The Washington Post for forwarding to the hospital."

Apparently, whoever doctored all that Tylenol didn't dampen the holiday spirit in Bowie. The Schweizers sent in a check for $30. It represented several dozen costumed visitors.

To thank a reluctant doctor: The stars of this show are Cornelius Van S. Roosevelt and Dr. N. Thomas Connally, both of Northwest. As Cornelius writes:

"Recently, through sheer forgetfulness, I forgot to keep an appointment for my annual physical checkup with Dr. N. Thomas Connally . . . .

"When I tried to persuade Tom that I should be billed for an unkept appointment, he refused to do so. We argued, and after neither of us would give in, we agreed that I would give a contribution to Children's Hospital in his name (in his honor?)."

Cornelius has done so. Forgetfulness never bore such ripe fruit. Neither did a doctor's lack of selfishness. Thanks to you both, fellas.

And to sing the praises of a new fund-raising scheme: One of the newest, and one of the best, was born last February at the Center for Applied Linguistics in Georgetown. Wendy Ward, a CAL employe, writes:

"Here at CAL, we have a fund-raising tradition that might interest other readers. It's called The Trash Novel Exchange.

"The Trash Novel Exchange gives everyone a chance to clear out those only-read-once books--spy thrillers, mysteries, romances, etc.--that clutter up bookshelves. It provides an opportunity to pick up vacation reading matter at low, low prices. Best of all, it helps the kids.

" . . . We charge 10 cents for paperbacks and 25 cents for hardbacks. Persons bringing in books get one free for every five contributed . . . .

"Although this isn't our only fund-raising method for the Children's Hospital drive, it is one of the most enjoyable. We replenish our supplies for leisure reading, while observing our fellow workers' tastes and contributing to a worthwhile cause. A Trash Novel Exchange puts the fun back in fund-raising, and we recommend it highly."

How about starting a TNE at your office? Sounds good to me.

It hardly seems possible to run a fund-raising campaign for Children's Hospital without talking to Al Lawson six times a day. But that's the sad adjustment a lot of us are going to have to make. Al Lawson, my friend and the hospital's friend, died a few weeks ago, at the too-soon age of 58.

For 16 years, Al served as the hospital's chief fund-raiser. In that time, he helped to raise more than $30 million.

Impressive numbers. But they represent people as much as figures on an adding machine tape -- people to whom Al talked about the hospital, and from whom he got the money that has helped make Children's a leader in health care for young folks in the U.S.

Raising funds in a city without major industry, and without a lot of independently wealthy heirs, meant that Al's work was cut out for him. His reaction to that was to hitch up his pants and get after any kind of donation, every kind of donation.

I've watched him obtain $5, and I've watched him obtain $5,000. He worked just as hard for both checks.

Besides his work at the hospital, Al was a founding director of Ronald McDonald House, the home near Children's where parents of sick kids can spend the night. In addition, if Al saw a moping Mom or a weepy kid in the Children's cafeteria, he would usually stop to offer a bright word, regardless of what his watch or his appointment book said.

Many of you knew Al. Many of you were persuaded to contribute to the hospital by his belief in it.

I have talked to some of his oldest friends, and early in each conversation, each friend has said, "You know, for Al, the hospital always came first." We won't soon see another man as dedicated to helping sick children get well. Let's remember him in the way he would have liked best.