She's a student at James Madison University who's working for the summer as a secretary in a federal office in Crystal City. No offense to Madison, but the student may have gotten a better education one recent Friday than she'll ever get in Harrisonburg.

The star of our show was walking back to the office from lunch when an obviously homeless woman asked her for change. The student declined. But guilt got her within the next few steps, so she stopped, turned around and watched for a few seconds.

The beggar tried several other passersby, but they all said no, too. So the student returned and handed over a few coins. Feeling better, she headed back to the office.

But she made it only as far as the front door. "I thought to myself, 'You're far from rich. Why did you give money to a woman without knowing why or what for?,' " the student reports. So back went the student one more time.

The woman said she'd been working as a data entry clerk but her hours were cut. She could only afford to pay the rent. Food money had to be begged.

The student asked if the woman had tried looking around Crystal City for work. The woman said she wouldn't know how to go about it. But thanks to her summer job, the student knew exactly how.

The student went upstairs and got a blank Form 171 -- the federal government's catch-all job application form. She came back downstairs and helped the woman fill it out. Then the student told the woman that she'd submit the completed form for her. The woman was delighted.

Four days later, the student bumped into the woman in the Crystal Underground, a group of shops near the Metro entrance. This time, the woman wasn't panhandling. She had the classified ads in one hand and a pay phone in the other, and she was chasing down job leads. She hadn't landed a job yet, she told the student, but she was on the track. And if none of the calls bore fruit, the 171 still might.

"Ignoring people on the street does nothing to solve the problems of unemployment and homelessness," the student concludes. "It is possible that the time one takes to help, beyond giving some spare change, might truly benefit and motivate someone else."

I know a student who gets an A in Real Life 101.

Our woman in Wheaton is about to get a whole bunch of theories to go along with a whole bunch of frustration.

She was the subject of a column last week because of her nutso TV set. Every hour, at precisely 47 minutes after, her set emits a beep, whether it's on or not. The woman in Wheaton has tried everything she could think of, but her bedroom is still riddled with beeps. So she appealed to me for help.

Here's some of what you readers suggested:

Wayne Stratton, of Gaithersburg, who "works in electronics:" "She should unplug the set, wait five minutes, then plug it back in. Some computer in there is probably fouled up by some electrical glitch."

Ed Jennings, of Northwest, an engineer: "The TV's not doing it. It must be one of those small digital watches in a drawer nearby."

Ken Ow, of Wheaton, who describes himself as an "electronics whiz:" "The cable installer must have dropped his watch inside the set."

Ivan Meyers, age 11, of Rockville: "The clicker was accidentally pre-programmed."

Last word goes to Bob Levey, age excessive, of the Home for Wayward Typists: "Wow, does this outpouring of guesses make me happy! All my life people have been trying to guilt-trip me because I know nothing about science. 'Science is absolute truth,' the geniuses always say. How interesting that the geniuses can't even agree on a simple beep coming out of a simple TV set.

"To the woman in Wheaton, this advice: Sell the set and pick up a book. I've never heard a novel beep at 47 minutes after every hour."


You won't meet many families with excess bucks, especially during the summer vacation season. But no one spends every last cent on a summer sortie. Wise owls put aside a little extra, since September will land soon enough.

What if we tap into that September fund? What if you give our campaign a little money so that 1,100 underprivileged Washington-area kids can enjoy two weeks at camp this summer? It's a Washington tradition -- and a way to help knit this community together. Many thanks in advance.


Make a check or money order payable to Send a Kid to Camp, and mail it to Bob Levey, The Washington Post, Washington, D.C., 20071.

In hand as of June 4: $45,433.62.

Our goal: $275,000.