CHRISTMAS did not come a little early this year for Raymond Stansbury of Darlington, S.C. On Thursday, Mr. Stansbury was arrested for trespassing at the Chesterfield, S.C., dump; he is a driver for the Davis Disposal Company of Darlington and he drops rubbish at the dump two or three times a day. Thursday was different. On Thursday, when Raymond Stanbury drove into the dump on business, he saw another truck from a local department store being unloaded of all sorts of damaged clothing. It was five days before Christmas. Raymond Stanbury earns $112 a week. Mr. and Mrs. Raymond Stanbury are the parents of seven children, aged 5 to 12. And there in the Chesterfield dump was somebody throwing away all sorts of usable shoes and clothing. Clothing that would fit and thrill the seven children.

When you make $112 a week and have nine mouths to feed, inflation is not the Consumer Price Index or the latest rumor from the Fed. No, inflation is never a stranger to anybody earning $112 a week with seven kids. Raymond Stansbury asked the man in charge of the dump if he could take some of the abandoned shoes and children's windbreakers for his family. The manager was, according to reports, noncommittal. So Mr. Stansbury helped himself to three pairs of children's shoes, three windbreakers and a pair of women's slacks for his wife.

Noncommittal was not a permanent condition for the dump manager. So soon as Mr. Stansbury was outside the gate with the reclaimed goods, the manager called the law. The law in Chesterfield County moves quickly. Mr. Stansbury was arrested for trespassing and required to put up a $200 bond. Raymond Stansbury, defendant, has a court date in January and could face a fine of $100 or 30 days in jail.

In addition to a dump manager, Chesterfield County has a county administrator, Clayton Caldwell.Mr. Caldwell is no faceless bureaucrat. He does not duck the tough ones, as demonstrated by his statement on the arrest and arraignment of Mr. Stansbury: "Violations of this type could cause the state to close the landfill, if they so desire. Private citizens sifting through solid waste in a landfill pose a safety hazard."

Who says government doesn't have a heart?